Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, Exodus 20:4

According to all good news sources Pope Benedict XVI is hoping to hold an art summit later in the year and has invited about 500 artists in the hopes of bridging the chasm between the Roman Catholic church and rather a lot of contemporary art.

Last time I checked about 75 artists have agreed to attend, however getting artists to attend things which feature free food and, one would assume, free wine has never really been the problem. The probem is what happens afterward. Immediately afterwards with regards to the consuming of booze – loosened tongues and so forth – and then after the whole summit draws to a close.

Something I’ve been thinking about is how much the RC church can reasonably be expected to accept. Not all contemporary art is good. If the church now engages with the art world and still doesn’t like some of what it finds it doesn’t necessarily mean good art being oppressed by maniacs – it’s prefectly conceivable that religiously offensive art is also uninspiring, lazy, technically bereft codswallop. Similarly, when a work deliberately seeks to offend or provoke organised religion (Piss Christ by Andres Serrano, for example) the representatives of that faith should have every right to defend their point of view.

Obviously I think that anything which takes the church away from a refusal to engage with contemporary art is good. It implies progress and a willingness to approach and compromise with the world beyond the Renaissance and I’m excited to see what current artists can bring to religious art and architecture. I am also wondering how much crap the Vatican will have to somehow find merit in to prove it is ‘making the effort’.

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