(Above) Examples of calligraphy in the exhibition correspond more closely to traditional “Islamic” art.
We have seen that the glorious heritage of Catholic religious art, music and architecture has largely fallen to the care of secular institutions: The Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frick collection, the Pierpont Morgan Library – to name just a few in the New York area. After the Second Vatican Council, the Church itself repudiated this heritage along with the Traditional liturgy. Indeed, generally speaking, Church patronage of the arts all but ceased. Yet, certain institutions of the Church continue involvement with the arts – but more in the sense of importing outside developments into the Church or at least maintaining contact with the “art” patronized by the secular establishment.
Such are the Paulists, “whose mission statement is in part to ‘build bridges of respect and collaboration with people of other world religions.’” They have organized “the first exhibition ever of contemporary Islamic Art in a Catholic place of worship” at St Paul the Apostle church in New York. The “Islamic” art ( a hodgepodge of traditional Islamic calligraphy and Western modern ideas)is interspersed among three side chapels dedicated to Our Lady, St. Theresa and St. Agnes. Verbose descriptions of the exhibits are provided. Never mind that some of this art, to the extent it attempts to formulate some kind of spiritual vision, directly contradicts Christianity. So we read that the first man may have been androgynous. The coran is quoted for the proposition that the birth of Jesus was painful. Or syncretistic links are attempted, such as between the worship of Krishna and of Allah, or where an Islamic gate is juxtaposed with a nearby statue of the Virgin Mary. Note that the Church of St Paul the Apostle is not just employed as a secular exhibition space (as is often the case, for example, with the Cathedral of St John the Divine) but “the Islamic work (is placed)side by side with the permanent Christian frescoes and statuary, creating extraordinary visual and ideological dialogs between the two traditions’ expressions of faith.”
And of course the secular political agenda of Pope Francis and progressive Catholicism is on display as well:
“This exhibit derives its title (“Brothers and Sisters: Islamic Art/Christian Space” – SC) from Pope Francis’s visit to war-torn parts of Africa in November 2015, in which he told the warring Christian and Islamic factions that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.” Seeing tensions in the U.S. (and Europe) being exacerbated by political voices eager to spread dissent and distrust, Openings (an “artists’ collective” supported by the Paulists that organized this exhibition – SC) makes a proud statement of peace and solidarity among Americans of different faiths and backgrounds with this timely exhibition this election season.”
It’s very clear at whom this is aimed!
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) today, November 15 was the last day of the exhibition.
Source for quotes:Brothers and Sisters: Islamic Art/Christian Space
(Above and Below) Much of the art (including an “installation” – a video show) bears little or no resemblance to Moslem traditions. I am sure it would be well received in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.