Milwaukee museum to show Pope Benedict portrait made from condoms

"Eggs Benedict," which depicts Pope Benedict XVI made out of condoms, will go on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum in November.

By Ben Hooper
"Eggs Benedict" by Niki Johnson is composed of 17,000 colored condoms. WPIX-TV screenshot
"Eggs Benedict" by Niki Johnson is composed of 17,000 colored condoms. WPIX-TV screenshot

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MILWAUKEE, July 1 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin art museum is defending the decision to display a controversial portrait of the previous pope composed entirely of condoms.

The Milwaukee Art Museum announced "Eggs Benedict," Niki Johnson's condom likeness of Pope Benedict XVI, will go on display starting in November.


Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki criticized the museum in a blog post:

"Would the art museum accept works that depicted various political leaders of our state in cow dung (a significant animal for Wisconsin)?  Would they accept art -- pick your favorite religious or historical figures -- featuring them in various pornographic poses (which has happened in some international publications)?  What about art featuring national or international popular social reconstructionists in a manner that would depict the opposite of what they represented, such as Gandhi sporting an uzi, Lincoln in Klu Klux Klan garb or Hitler with a yarmulke reading the Torah, all in the name of art and beauty? Whose art and whose beauty? I would offer that even if the art museum considered accepting any of the above examples, there would be an extensive public discussion that would take place before any decision would be made."


Johnson, who finished the piece in 2013, said "Eggs Benedict" was inspired by the then-pope's comments about the potential for contraception to increase the spread of human immunodeficiency virus in Africa. She described the artwork to WITI-TV as "an act of protest."

"'Eggs Benedict', the piece, investigates the role of world leaders and public health," Johnson said.

Brady Roberts, chief curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum, said not everyone has to agree with the painting's message.

"This is a controversial work. This is an artist that has a point of view and not everyone is going to embrace that point of view," Roberts said. "The artists have been very clear this is not an attack on the Catholic Church or Catholics. This is about AIDS."

Roberts said the museum is not concerned about controversy.

"This is our role -- to stimulate dialogue," Roberts said.

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