Argentinian artists Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini—better known as Pool y Marianela—call their latest concept Kidstianism. The exhibition features pieces that “explore the intersection of religion and commerce,” which is art-speak for “We’ve nailed a Thundercat to a cross because Christianity is a manufactured commodity or whatever.” When the show held its opening reception in Los Angeles, it featured a life-sized Jesus cake, complete with red velvet stigmata, which was sliced and sold to attendees that night. No one beyond the gallery seemed to take notice—but that could’ve been because no government officials were caught on camera with their mouth full of Christ.
Now, Enrique Avogadro, the Minister of Culture in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been forced to apologise after he ate a slice of Jesus’ arm at a contemporary art show in the capital city. Pool y Marianela posted a now-deleted Instagram video of Avogadro with his sacreligious refreshments—a clip that was poorly received in the largely Catholic country. In the days since, there have been countless social media posts condemning Avogadro and calling for him to either resign or to be fired.
“Please, if you have any dignity left, quit, go away with the scourge that accompanies you,” one comment on Avogadro’s Facebook page reads. “You have hurt the deeply religious, and the Christian and Catholic faith. You do not deserve [your role] in a nation that was born under the Cross and the sword.”
Cardinal Mario Poli, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, sent a letter to Rodríguez Larreta Schedule, the chief of the city’s government, calling Avogadro’s behaviour “a grievance to the religious spirit.” There’s also a Change.org petition calling for his dismissal.
On Facebook, Avogadro wrote that he “sincerely regrets if someone felt offended,” which is always an excellent way to start an apology. “As a person, I have a very clear opinion in favour of freedom of expression, particularly when it’s related to issues that question us, that make us reflect or that oppose our own convictions,” he said “I also believe that the place of art is precisely to make us uncomfortable and to shake us. I understand, on the other hand, that public employees have a role that transcends what’s personal, and as such, we’re responsible for our actions. For this same reason, I want to apologise.” (OK, good finish there, Enrique).
But according to La Nacion, it that might not be enough. He was supposed to attend a press conference at the Theater Complex of Buenos Aires last night, but did not attend. (The paper does not say whether that was by choice or not). Pool y Marianela probably aren’t faring any better; they’ve deleted their Facebook account and their Instagram is now private. Some of the couple’s previous exhibitions, including the Barbie-heavy “Plastic Religion”, have been well-received in the United States, but met with threats in their home country. A 2014 show at a Buenos Aires gallery was suspended after what Clarin describes as “mail and phone calls from people who promised to demonstrate at the door, denounce them [and] break everything.”
Minister Avogadro does have a handful of supporters, though. “I was there. I saw how not only the minister of culture took part in the work/cake, but also multiple Christians, Jews, atheists, artists, curators, architects, security personnel, doctors and many others who also wandered around the [art fair],” gallery owner Eduardo Saubidet wrote on Instagram. “A true spirit of sharing. Something quite similar to what the original Christ promulgated.”
That’s nice, but it might be best to just keep Jesus out of this moving forward. And off the plates of government officials, for their own sake.