Art and religion: a modern makeover

A new book features more than 200 contemporary artists engaging with religious iconography in profound ways 

Charlotte Cripps
Friday 16 October 2015 14:42
Adi Nes' Untitled, 1999, a staging of The Last Supper with young Israeli soldiers in a military mess hall
Adi Nes' Untitled, 1999, a staging of The Last Supper with young Israeli soldiers in a military mess hall

A new book, Art & Religion in the 21st Century, features more than 200 contemporary artists, whose work contains religious themes and images. These include David LaChapelle’s American Jesus: Hold Me, Carry Me Boldly (2009),which pictures Jesus cradling Michael Jackson. All the artists have given traditional religious art a modern makeover – Kris Kuksi’s Churchtank Type 7C (2009) – is a toy church mounted on wheels with a gun. While Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999) shows the Pope being hit by a meteor. Adi Nes’s Untitled (1999) is a staging of the Last Supper with young Isreali soldiers in a military mess hall; Tom Hunter’s photograph After the Dragon (2000) is inspired by classical baptism imagery. It shows two naked people by a pond after a music festival – the man has his hand on the woman’s head as she emerges from the water.

Ron Mueck’s Youth (2009) shows Jesus as a black adolescent contemplating his mortality and examining himself after what could have been a knife attack. Christ appears as a young women surrounded by female disciples in Is it for Real? (2006) by Naziif Topcuoglu. which restages Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of St Thomas (c1600).

“There has been a fundamental misconception about the relationship between art and religion. They are always characterised as enemies in the wild,” says the book’s author Dr Aaron Rosen, who lectures in sacred traditions and the Arts at King’s College London.

“It does a great disservice to both art and religion. I wanted to tell a story about how many artists today are engaging with religious iconography in profound and sensitive ways. For many artists today, religion is not something that is silly or outdated – instead, it is a source of powerful reflection on questions on meaning.”

‘Art & Religion’in the 21st Century’ by Aaron Rosen is published on 19 October, £38 hardback

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in