Following the threat of legal action against an art gallery by the Vicariate of Rome over an exhibition that included photos of gay men kissing in churches, vandals raided the gallery and spray-painted three works on display. (See Despite Papal Declarations of Tolerance, Vatican Suppresses Photos of Gay Men Kissing.) According to L’Opera gallery assistant Martina Adami, who was the only staff member present at the time, five men in their twenties rushed in, and while one distracted her with questions, the others attacked the artworks.
The works by artists Mauro Maugliani, Gonzalo Orquín, and Luis Serrano were part of an exhibition, Trialogo, subtitled Nuns, Weddings, Interiors. The three artists had been invited by journalist and art critic Edoardo Sassi to create works on unconventional themes and to treat them in unconventional ways. Orquin’s Si, Quiero (Yes I Do), an installation of 16 photos of same-sex couples kissing in front of the altars of 16 different churches, caught the attention of the Vicariate of Rome. The Vicariate said that the photos were taken without authorization, and showed “expressions not suitable for a holy place and thus harmful to the religious sentiment of the faithful.” In response to the Vicariate’s threat, Orquin decided to leave his installation in place, but he covered it in black and created a “graveyard” of black crosses below it.
When Orquin’s gay kiss photos nevertheless appeared in the media, there was an outcry from some of the faithful opposed to the exhibition. One blog, The Eponymous Flower, which calls itself, “a polemical Catholic Royalist blog,” stated with respect to Trialogo: “Art is confused with mockery and desecration and profanation of the sacred space by obscene acts which are expressly condemned by the Catholic doctrine, a show of arrogance and contempt… The exhibition in Rome represents another unacceptable provocation by the enemies of the Church.”
The gallery has kept the three spray-painted works on display to highlight artists’ struggles against censorship and violence in Italy. Ironically, Orquin’s Si, Quiero was not touched by the vandals.
The exhibition is on view through November 15, 2013.