Sculptor's honeymooning bishop faces ban from gallery

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The Independent Online
BARRING the late intervention of blasphemy laws, Dublin will today be consumed with yet another of those steamy controversies that have escalated alarmingly since an outraged Roman Catholic cleric and half the nation were famously scandalised by the mere mention of a woman in her nightie on prime time television back in the saintly Sixties, writes Alan Murdoch.

With an uncannily topical instinct the French-based Irish artist Michael Farrell is due to open an exhibition featuring a plaster sculpture of two figures, a bishop and a woman joined together in unholy union in a pose the actress Gillian Taylforth might be too modest to recognise, but which George Carman QC willingly describes to High Court libel juries.

Farrell has spent much of this week reassembling the sexually explicit work entitled L'Eveque - Lune de miel (The Bishop's Honeymoon).

The half life-size sculpture, which could hardly be called a plaster saint, was brought from his studio near Nimes in pieces. Art world claims that this was done to avoid embarrassing any pious lorry driver afraid of being caught with it on the open road, still less in a lay-by, were firmly denied.

Patrick Taylor, of the Kildare Street Taylor Gallery, said he was taking legal advice before putting the work, one of 29 items in the Farrell retrospective, on public view.

Yesterday the 53-year-old artist told the Independent the sculpture's appearance at tonight's opening was still hanging in the balance. 'There are three aspects of Irish law we're having checked,' he said, accepting the gallery would have to be governed by whatever its legal opinion dictated.

Because of its prime location, the Taylor Gallery has particular reason to be wary of establishment ire. It is directly opposite the main gates of the Dail.

Farrell also painted the provocatively titled Madonna Irelanda - The Very First Real Irish Political Picture (1977), a female nude with a conspicuously red bottom and a halo, which hangs in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin. He would not be drawn on whether his rare foray into sculpture was inspired by any particular cleric, Irish or otherwise.