In Australia, in 1950, a Jesuit priest, a Roman Catholic lawyer, and a Jewish businessman formed a society which would award an annual prize intended to stimulate the production of “significant works of art with religious content.” They named their society and prize after the visionary English poet William Blake.
The Blake Prize For Religious Art was increased to $15,000 in 2005.
56 annual competitions later, the state of the contemporary arts is such that an artist named Priscilla Bracks submitted a lenticular image, titled Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross, in which a picture of Jesus morphs into an image of Osama bin Laden.
Another artist, Luke Sullivan, submitted a statue of the Virgin Mary wearing a blue burqa, titled The Fourth Secret of Fatima.
Though these particular entries did not win, they were both included in the selection exhibited at the National Art School in Sydney, provoking some not-undeserved indignation on the part of the Australian public, and condemnation by both Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.
Ms. Bracks was sufficiently intimidated by all the negative reaction that she posted on her web-site a rather disingenuous statement proposing the implausible thesis that her “artwork” is open to all sorts of interpretations (beyond mere blasphemy), and was really intended by herself as a kind of protest against publicizing crime and violence. Right.
Obviously this sort of thing ought to have been excluded from any serious art exhibition, not because it was offensive, but because it was puerile and amounted only to a crude and simplistic expression of a particularly muddle-headed version of the tritest and most banal kind of pseudo-intellectual political posturing.
Priscilla Bracks in an earlier, and more complacent, photo