October 16, 2016

Art Question: Do Contemporary Art And Religion Go Together?

Yesterday during my guided tour we started talking about how many are surprised to discover that Andy Warhol was religious. Others are surprised to hear that Joseph Beuys wasn’t religious, although his work is covered with crosses. Warhol didn’t make a public thing out of his piety. But his bedroom was adorned with santos carving, a crucifix, a statuette of the Risen Christ and next to the majestic canopied bed a devotional book was lying on the bedside table. Warhol also attended Sunday mass regularly. And when he died in 1987, he was buried at the St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh. After my guided tour, a worried visitor asked me if religion and contemporary art are irreconcilable, he himself being a bit on the religious side. “Isn’t religion all about following rules, something that doesn’t go well with the boundary-free art world?” he asked me. I told him that the art world has also its rules and in my opinion, there are ethical boundaries that apply to the making of art. I'm also convinced there is a certain spirituality in art. “Good art touches upon something beyond”, I said while focussing my eyes on an imaginary far horizon. “Think of the mystics that Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass set about,” I uttered as my last words before making a swift turn left to the wardrobe. 

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