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Colin McCahon And The Cross Controversy

What would Colin McCahon, a man deeply concerned with religious questions, make of the monetary focus of the Cross controversy?

The only time religious art hits the headlines is when someone steals it or its sold in auction by someone who it seems should have known better.

The fact that the biggest controversy surrounding a cross today is who actually owns it (a work Colin McCahon) contrasts rather sharply to the contemporise of Jesus who saw the cross as an object of torture, oppression and death, said Rev Martin Baker last night opening the contemporary religious exhibition Stations of the Cross at the Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland.

Though Colin McCahon was never a member of any church, he acknowledged that religious questions were extremely important to his work. He saw his art within the context of a long established religious art tradition.

Rev Baker went on to say that, There is a cynicism and suspicion in Western contemporary artists. We rarely hear a contemporary artist talk of themself as being a person of faith yet there exists an intimate relationship between art and faith.

Great artists have long created great religious art yet today there is very little contemporary religious art to be found in public art galleries. It may be a generalisation but it seems to me that contemporary art journals are not interested in discussing religion unless the work in question is what we could call transgressive (if we were to ask the art going public to name a contemporary work of religious art the response will likely be Tania Kovats Virgin in a Condom or works by Andres Serrano).

Rev Martin Baker is the Assembly Executive Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand Aotearoa.


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