Three police officers were injured in an incident at the Haifa Museum of Art in Haifa, Israel on Friday, as hundreds of Arab Christian protesters tried to break into the building to remove a sculpture depicting a crucified likeness of McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald. Local police used tear gas and stun grenades to control the crowd of protesters, some of whom were hurling rocks, the Independent reports. The protest occurred one night after a firebomb was thrown into the museum.
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Rate or hate? This McJesus sculpture by the Finnish artist @jani.leinonen has led hundreds of Christians to protest outside the Haifa Museum of Art in Israel where it is currently on show. A local reverend says “what is suitable for Europe and the Christian population of Finland is not suitable for our community and cannot be met with understanding.” Read the full story on our website (link in story) . . . . . #art #contemporaryart #sculpture #mcjesus #artnews #artcontroversy #artprotest #religiousart #rateorhate #haifamuseumofart @haifamuseums Photo: Vilhelm Sjöström, courtesy the artist and @zetterberggallery
The “McJesus” sculpture, which was created by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, has been on display in the museum for several months as part of a series called “Sacred Goods.” The artist says that he actually had requested that the museum remove his work several months ago, after he joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, but the organization ignored his request. “The news about the demonstrations came to me as an upsetting surprise particularly because my work is in the exhibition against my wishes,” Leinonen tells the Art Newspaper.
Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev wrote a letter urging the museum to remove the sculpture, noting that “contempt for symbols sacred to religions and many believers around the world as an act of artistic protest is illegitimate and cannot be displayed in a cultural institution supported by state funds.” The museum’s director Nissim Tal agreed to put up a warning sign about potentially offensive material at the entrance of the exhibit. In a statement, the museum also notes that a “discourse about art, however complex it may be, must not spill over into violent territory and must be respected – even in charged situations.”
One protester has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer during the Friday night incident.
• Artwork depicting Ronald McDonald as Jesus sparks violent protests in Israel [Independent]
• Arab Christians clash violently with police in Haifa over ‘McJesus’ sculpture [Times of Israel]
• Hundreds of Christians protest against McJesus sculpture at Haifa Museum of Art in Israel [The Art Newspaper]