Andres Serrano

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Andres Serrano
Andres Serrano by foto di matti.jpg
Serrano in 2005
Born (1950-08-15) August 15, 1950 (age 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Known forPhotography
Spouse(s) Julie Ault (m. 1980, div. unknown) Irina Movmyga (current)

Andres Serrano (born August 15, 1950) is an American photographer and artist who has become famous through his photos of corpses and his use of feces and bodily fluids in his work, notably his controversial work Piss Christ , a red-tinged photograph of a crucifix submerged in a glass container of what was purported to be the artist's own urine. He is also notable for creating the artwork for the heavy metal band Metallica's Load and Reload albums.

Photographer person who takes photographs

A photographer is a person who makes photographs.

<i>Piss Christ</i> Controversial photograph by Andres Serrano

Immersion is a 1987 photograph by the American artist and photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a small glass tank of the artist's urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art's "Awards in the Visual Arts" competition, which was sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States Government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects.

Crucifix cross with an image or artwork of Jesus on it

A crucifix is an image of Jesus on the cross, as distinct from a bare cross. The representation of Jesus himself on the cross is referred to in English as the corpus.


Early life

Serrano was born in New York City on August 15, 1950. [1] He is from a half Honduran, half Afro-Cuban background, and was raised a strict Roman Catholic. He studied from 1967 to 1969 at the Brooklyn Museum and Art School, [2] yet is considered to be a self-taught photographer. In December 1980, he married artist Julie Ault. [1] In a 2012 interview, Serrano references Ault as his "first wife" and Irina Movmyga as his current wife. [3] Serrano has said that he is a Christian. [4]

Afro-Cuban racial or ethnic group in Cuba with African ancestry

The term Afro-Cuban refers to Cubans who mostly have Native West African ancestry and to historical or cultural elements in Cuba thought to emanate from this community. The term can refer to the combining of native African and other cultural elements found in Cuban society such as race, religion, music, language, the arts and class culture.

Brooklyn Museum art museum located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Museum is an art museum located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. At 560,000 square feet (52,000 m2), the museum is New York City's third largest in physical size and holds an art collection with roughly 1.5 million works.

Julie Ault is an American artist, curator, and editor who was a cofounder of Group Material, a New York-based artists' collaborative that has produced over fifty exhibitions and public projects exploring relationships between politics and aesthetics. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellows Program grant, commonly referred to as a MacArthur Genius Grant, in 2018 in recognition for her achievements "redefining the role of the artwork and the artist by melding artistic, curatorial, archival, editorial, and activist practices into a new form of cultural production."


Serrano in 2010 at Michael Musto's Village Voice 25th Anniversary party Andres Serrano cropped.jpg
Serrano in 2010 at Michael Musto's Village Voice 25th Anniversary party

He worked as an assistant art director at an advertising firm, before creating his first works in 1983. [2]

His work has been exhibited in diverse locations around the world including the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, World without end (2001), and a retrospective at the Barbican Arts Centre in London, Body and soul (2001). [2]

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine cathedral in New York City

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It is located in New York City at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue between West 110th Street and 113th Street in Manhattan's Morningside Heights neighborhood.

His exhibitions have often inspired angry reactions. On October 5, 2007, his group of photographs called The History of Sex were on display and several were vandalized at an art gallery in Lund, Sweden by people who were believed to be part of a neo-Nazi group. [5] On April 16, 2011, after two weeks of protests and a campaign of hate mail and abusive phone calls to an art gallery displaying his work, orchestrated by groups of French Catholic fundamentalists, approximately a thousand people marched through the streets of Avignon, to protest outside the gallery. On April 17, 2011, two of his works, Piss Christ and The Church, were vandalized. The gallery director plans to reopen the museum with the damaged works on show "so people can see what barbarians can do". [6]

Lund Place in Scania, Sweden

Lund is a city in the southern Swedish province of Scania, across the Øresund from Copenhagen. The town had 91,940 inhabitants out of a municipal total of 121,510 as of 2018. It is the seat of Lund Municipality, Skåne County.

Hate mail is a form of harassment, usually consisting of invective and potentially intimidating or threatening comments towards the recipient. Hate mail often contains exceptionally abusive, foul or otherwise hurtful language.

Avignon Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Avignon is a commune in south-eastern France in the department of Vaucluse on the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 90,194 inhabitants of the city, about 12,000 live in the ancient town centre enclosed by its medieval ramparts.

Serrano usually makes large prints of about 20 by 30 inches (51 by 76 cm). He has shot an array of subject matter including portraits of Klansmen, morgue photos, and pictures of burn victims. He went into the New York City Subway with lights and photographic background paper to portray the bedraggled homeless, as well as producing some rather tender but sometimes decidedly kinky portraits of couples. One of these last shows what Adrian Searle of The Guardian described as "a young couple, she with a strap-on dildo, he with a mildly expectant expression." [7]

Ku Klux Klan American white supremacy group

The Ku Klux Klan, commonly called the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist hate group. The Klan has existed in three distinct eras at different points in time during the history of the United States. Each has advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white nationalism, anti-immigration and—especially in later iterations—Nordicism and anti-Catholicism. Historically, the Klan used terrorism—both physical assault and murder—against groups or individuals whom they opposed. All three movements have called for the "purification" of American society and all are considered right-wing extremist organizations. In each era, membership was secret and estimates of the total were highly exaggerated by both friends and enemies.

New York City Subway Rapid transit system in New York City

The New York City Subway is a rapid transit system owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York City Transit Authority, a subsidiary agency of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Opened in 1904, the New York City Subway is one of the world's oldest public transit systems, one of the world's most used metro systems, and the metro system with the most stations. It offers service 24 hours per day on every day of the year, though some routes may operate only part-time.

<i>The Guardian</i> British national daily newspaper

The Guardian is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian, and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, the Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by the Scott Trust. The trust was created in 1936 to "secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the Guardian free from commercial or political interference". The trust was converted into a limited company in 2008, with a constitution written so as to maintain for The Guardian the same protections as were built into the structure of the Scott Trust by its creators. Profits are reinvested in journalism rather than distributed to owners or shareholders.

Madonna and Child II, Cibachrome print by Andres Serrano, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D. C.) 'Madonna and Child II', Cibachrome print by Andres Serrano, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D. C.).jpg
Madonna and Child II, Cibachrome print by Andres Serrano, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D. C.)

Many of Serrano's pictures involve bodily fluids in some way—depicting, for example, blood (sometimes menstrual blood), semen (for example, Blood and Semen II (1990)) or human female milk. Within this series are a number of works in which objects are submerged in bodily fluids. Most famous of these is Piss Christ (1987), a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine. This caused great controversy when first exhibited. The work was sold for $277,000 in 1999, [8] which was far beyond the estimated $20,000 – $30,000. Serrano, alongside other artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Barbara DeGenevieve, and Merry Alpern, became a figure whom Senator Jesse Helms, and Senator Alfonse D'Amato, as well as other cultural conservatives, attacked for producing offensive art while others, including The New York Times , [9] defended him in the name of artistic freedom. (See the American "culture wars" of the 1990s). [10]

Serrano's series Objects of Desire, from the early 1990s, features close-ups of firearms, photographed at the Slidell, Louisiana home of artist Blake Nelson Boyd. Included is a shot, against a glowing orange background, down the barrel of a loaded .45 revolver (belonging to Boyd's grandfather) that was used by Jonas Mekas for the cover of the April–May–June 2007 Anthology Film Archives catalog.

Critical reception of Serrano's work has been mixed. In a 1989 New York Times review, critic Michael Brenson responded to Serrano's series of Cibachrome photographs of iconic objects submerged in bodily fluids: "You cannot consider the content of Mr. Serrano's work without considering his attitude toward photography. It is the photograph that breaks through convention, that makes the search possible and that enables the artist to sort out what he likes and does not like in religion and art. It is the photograph that becomes the vessel of transformation and revelation. The photograph then becomes an icon that, for Mr. Serrano, replaces the false icons in his work. The photograph is clean and purified, the reliquary or shrine in which he clearly believes that the word about the body can be stored and spread." [11] Reviewing later work in 2001, Guardian art critic Adrian Searle was not impressed: he found that Serrano's photos were "far more about being lurid than anything else... In the end, the show is all surface, and looking for hidden depths does no good." [7] Continuing his use of biological matter, more recent work of Serrano's uses feces as a medium. [12]

Serrano's work Blood and Semen III is used as the cover of heavy metal band Metallica's album Load , while "Piss and Blood" is used on Reload . Serrano also directed a video for industrial metal group Godflesh, "Crush My Soul".

In 2008, Serrano's piece The Interpretation of Dreams (White Nigger) was selected to participate in The Renaissance Society's group exhibit, "Black Is, Black Ain't". [13]

Serrano adopted the alter ego "Brutus Faust" to create the full-length album Vengeance Is Mine in July 2010. The album contains covers of classic songs from the 1960s, and original compositions including four songs written by Serrano’s wife Irina Movmyga as well as one song co-written by Serrano, Thad DeBrock, and album producer Steve Messina of New York City–based band Blow Up Hollywood. Coinciding with the release of the album are the videos Goo Goo Gaga, Love Letters, and Bad Moon Rising. Goo Goo Gaga consists mostly of black-and-white footage from the 1940s, which makes parallels between the Depression and the present day, with the images of "Brutus" shot by Francesco Carrozzini. Love Letters is footage taken from cult director Joe Sarno’s Flesh and Lace. Bad Moon Rising consists entirely of footage Serrano compiled from several short films by John Santerineross. All of these short films were edited by Vincent V. [14] [15]

In 2013, Serrano made a work of art called Sign of the Times by collecting 200 signs from homeless people in New York City, usually paying $20 for each sign. He described the work as "a testimony to the homeless men and women who roam the streets in search of food and shelter. It's also a chronicle of the times we live in." [16] Over the course of several months, Serrano engaged with over 85 homeless individuals in Manhattan and photographed them for a series called Residents of New York, a site-specific public art exhibition on display from May 19 to June 15, 2014 at the West Fourth Street – Washington Square subway station, on LaGuardia Place (between West 3rd and Bleecker Streets), at Judson Memorial Church, and in phone booths and posters around the city. [17] The installation was produced and developed by More Art, a nonprofit organization based in New York that is dedicated to the development of socially engaged public art projects. [18] Serrano initially photographed homeless individuals in New York in 1990 for a series of studio-style portraits titled Nomads. In Residents of New York, he removed his signature studio elements, focusing instead on personal connectivity and interaction directly on the streets of New York City, where the homeless live. [19]

See also

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<i>Blood Cross</i>

Blood Cross is one of American photographer Andres Serrano's early religious-themed postmodernist images, released in 1985, two years before the controversial Piss Christ was debuted. This image depicted a plexiglass cross filled with cow's blood; the cross leaked slightly making it appear as though it was bleeding. It was exhibited along with Milk, Blood as part of Serrano's Fluids series.


  1. 1 2 Evans, executive editor: Martin Marix (1995). Contemporary photographers (3rd ed.). Detroit: St. James Press. pp. 1013–1015. ISBN   1558621903.
  2. 1 2 3 "Andres Serrano – Biography". Retrieved April 19, 2011.
  3. "Meet the photographer: Andres Serrano". Musee. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  4. "Serano Shoots Cuba". Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  5. Carol Vogel (October 9, 2007). "Gallery Vandals Destroy Photos". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2011.
  6. Angelique Chrisafis (April 18, 2011). "Attack on 'blasphemous' art work fires debate on role of religion in France". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2011.
  7. 1 2 Searle, Adrian. Negative energy, The Guardian , October 13, 2001. Retrieved February 10, 2008.
  8. Auction Results: Andres Serrano's Piss Christ
  9. Brenson, Michael (December 8, 1989). "Andres Serrano: Provocation And Spirituality". The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
  10. Schemo, Diana Jean (November 3, 1994). "Endowment Ends Program Helping Individual Artists". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  11. Brenson, Michael. "Andres Serrano: Provocation And Spirituality". The New York Times. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
  12. Yaeger, Lynn. "Andres Serrano's 'Shit' Show", Village Voice, August 26, 2008. Accessed September 8, 2008.
  13. Renaissance Society Archived September 10, 2012, at
  14. Brutus
  15. Laster, Paul (July 22, 2010). "Andres Serrano Wants to Be a Rock Star". flavorwire. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  16. Serrano, Andres.I started buying the signs that homeless use to beg. Here's what happened, The Guardian , December 21, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  17. Brooks, Katherine. Famed Photographer Gives A Face To New York's Homeless Population In 'Residents Of New York', The Huffington Post , May 15, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  18. Ilnytzky, Ulah. Serrano's homeless photos pop up in NYC Archived May 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine , The Associated Press , May 23, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  19. Sutton, Benjamin. Andres Serrano wants New Yorkers to stop ignoring the homeless, Artnet , May 23, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.