The Milwaukee Art Museum has acquired a headline-grabbing portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made with 17,000 brightly colored condoms, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Entitled Eggs Benedict, artist Niki Johnson created the work two years ago in reaction to the former pope’s suggestion that condom use might actually increase the spread of AIDS in Africa. The artist is an adjunct professor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Johnson wrote on her blog, “Each time a new message from the Pope hit the airwaves I became frustratingly perplexed. I felt I had to do something.”
The museum plans to display the work when its permanent galleries are reopened this fall.
“Particularly when you see it from the back, it kind of makes you realize what a crazy medium it is, but also just how artists mix color. You can do that with paint or you can do it with condoms,” Brady Roberts, the museum’s chief curator, told the Journal Sentinel.
He added that Johnson’s work is the first in the museum’s collection that has achieved global fame “via the Internet.”
Many people have taken offense at Johnson’s painting, calling it disrespectful, blasphemous, and “disgusting,” in online discussions and elsewhere.
In 2007, a group exhibition at the Palazzo della Ragione in Milan was cancelled after a revealing sculpture of Benedict XVI, titled Miss Kitty, debuted, Artforum reports. The artist, Paolo Schmidlin, depicted the former pope in drag, wearing a revealing white shawl, saggy underwear, and sporting pantyhose.
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