VATICAN CITY, June 23 (AP) — Pope Francis praised artists as genuine as he welcomed 200 artists, filmmakers and writers to the Sistine Chapel on Friday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Museums’ collection of contemporary art. Dreamers who can see, dream and invent. .
Francis acknowledged that some in the crowd — including Andrés Serrano of “Piss Christ” fame — sometimes use confrontation to make people think. But he says their goal is to find harmony and beauty.
“You also want to reveal inconsistencies in reality and things that are more comfortable and convenient to hide,” Francis said. “Like the biblical prophets, you are sometimes confronted with uncomfortable things; you criticize Today’s false myths and new icons, empty words, tactics of consumerism, machinations of power.”
Pope Paul VI first invited artists into the Sistine Chapel in 1964, hoping to renew the friendship between the Catholic Church and artists that over the centuries has produced masterpieces such as the Michelangelo Fresco Chapel .
In 1973, at a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein, these audiences led to the unveiling of the Vatican Museums’ collection of modern and contemporary art. The collection, the youngest in the museum, is hosting a 50th anniversary exhibition this year featuring some of the newest pieces, including those of the artists who were invited to visit on Friday.
In recent years, the Vatican has sought to reinvigorate the Holy See’s engagement with contemporary culture, with participation in the Venice Biennale of Art and Architecture, and future literary festivals.
Among those in the audience on Friday were writer Jhumpa Lahiri, director Abel Ferrara, contemporary artist Anselm Kiefer and Italian actor Sylvie Silvio Orlando, whose recent film “Padre Pio” pays homage to the Italian saint, played a fictional Vatican secretary of state. The “young pope” and “new pope” made him seem very at home in the Apostolic Palace.
Serrano, for his part, said he was surprised he had been invited and was thrilled when he greeted Francis at the end in the audience. He said he introduced himself in Spanish and asked Francis for his blessing, and the Argentine pope jokingly slapped him on the wrist and gave him the thumbs-up.
Serrano’s 1987 photo “Peeing Christ” has caused controversy since it was first exhibited because the image depicts a crucifix dipped in urine.
Serrano told reporters after the audience that he understood his invitation to prove that “the church understands that I am a Christian artist, not a profane artist. I am just an artist.”
If “Piss Christ” bothers you, maybe you should think about what it symbolizes. It symbolizes the death of a human being in a very horrible, painful, tragic and inhuman way. That’s how they crucified Christ,” he said.
The fact that even provocative artists were included was proof of the Vatican’s desire to engage in dialogue with contemporary culture, said Bishop Paul Tehe, the number two at the Vatican’s culture and education ministry.
“We’re ready to have a conversation,” Tay said. “We want to listen to artists, to talk to them, to meet, to have conversations, because we think artists have perspectives and ways of seeing the world that we need to consider.”
When asked about Serrano in particular, Teh added: “I think we all have to work on the well-intentioned assumptions of the artist, that they’re trying to say something, challenge something, and sometimes might have to take strong steps to awaken us”. (Associated Press)
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