Andres Serrano “Piss Christ” / hammer
(This controversial 1987 photograph has been attacked on multiple occasions - most recently in 2011, when a man smashed the work with the hammer while the piece was on view at Collection Lambert in Avignon, France. According to museum guards, a group of men arrived at the gallery at closing time. Two of them attempted to smuggle cans of paint spray and a chisel in their jackets. The guard noticed and proceeded to confiscate the objects - during which a third man took a hammer (or icepick or screwdriver, it remains unclear) to Serrano’s piece. The attacker struggled with the guard, but helped by one of his accomplices, managed to escape. In the struggle, another Serrano work, “The Church (Sister Jeanne-Myriam),” was also damaged.
“Piss Christ” had been previously vandalized in 1997 (twice). The attacks took place within days of each other, while the work was on view at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. The first incident occurred when 51 year old John Allen Haywood took the photograph from the wall and kicked it. Haywood received a one month suspended jail term. He later told the press, “You can go so far with taking the piss, you understand….It riles me, it really gets me very upset.” Asked what he would say to Serrano, he replied"I wouldn’t like to say nothing to him. I’d just like to punch him on the nose.“ Haywood’s actions caused slight damage to the photograph’s framing, but none to the work itself.
The very next day, two male teenagers also attacked the piece. According to witnesses, one teenager acted as a decoy, kicking a print on the opposite wall to distract museum guards. As the guards rushed to subdue him, the other teenager attacked Piss Christ with a hammer. Both teens were arrested; the print was damaged beyond repair.
In 2007, a group of neo-Nazis attacked a Serrano show in Sweden, although Piss Christ was not on display there.)