Eggs Benedict – Pope immortalised in controversial artwork made from 1700 condoms
A portrait of Pope Benedict XVI made from 17,000 multicoloured condoms has caused stirrings amid the Catholic community after it was added to the permanent collection of a prominent US art museum.
The Milwaukee Art Museum said that it had received about 200 complaints about Niki Johnson's artwork Eggs Benedict, but around an equal number in its support.
The Journal Sentinel newspaper reports that sides are split between those who see the work as a commentary on the importance of Aids education, and those who call the work an example of hate speech.
Some patrons of the museum have cancelled their memberships, and one donor resigned their financial support.
"You could be provocative putting a Swastika on a synagogue," said Michael Bowen, who until recently had been a member of the museum for 30 years. "It would be provocative, but it wouldn't be art. It would be hate speech."
A spokesman for Milwaukee's Archbishop, Jerome Listecki, said: "What's at play here is either an intentional attack on a faith tradition and its teachings or a publicity stunt for the artist.
"We would be opposed to any faith tradition or religious leader being attacked in such a way."
The museum acquired the piece from a local philanthropist and gay rights advocate. Joseph Pabst, who paid around $25,000 for it, said he found the work beautiful, provocative and important.
"This was never intended to be derisive, mocking or disrespectful of the pope," said Don Layden, the museum board of trustees president. "It was to have a conversation about Aids and Aids education. And my hope is when the piece appears in the museum that will be the focus of the discussion."