Contemporary art Obituaries News Argentina

Controversial Argentinian artist León Ferrari has died, aged 92

Artist's retrospective denounced by the Pope when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires

León Ferrari

The controversial conceptual artist León Ferrari, whose work famously upset the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, now Pope Francis, due to its anti-clerical message, worked in many media, including wood, wire, concrete and collage. Born in Buenos Aires in 1920, Ferrari began his career as an engineer. He became one of Argentina's best-known artists for work that often combined religious iconography with erotic and violent imagery that called attention to abuses of power, not least by the Catholic Church.

A retrospective of his work in Buenos Aires in 2004, which attracted thousands of visitors, was temporarily closed by court order after protests about its anti-Catholic content. The judge ruled that it incited religious hatred. Another judge soon overturned the decision. At the time Ferrari told The Art Newspaper: “For many years I have made art dealing with discrimination on various fronts: against gays, against women, against Jews, etc.—and against the tortures that the Church promises en masse to ‘sinners’. Christianity divides human beings into believers and sinners, condemning the latter to Hell, and I consider this a threat that violates human rights.” Among those upset by the retrospective was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, who denounced the use of Christian taxpayers’ money to mount a “blasphemous” exhibition containing “public expressions of mockery and offence to religious virtues and morals”.

The winner of the Golden Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennale, 2007, Ferrari's work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate, London, among other institutions world wide.

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