World that Was Very Much Accepting

In 1999, New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), was displaying the notorious "Piss Christ" by Andres Serrano, a close-up photograph of a crucifix submerged in a vat of Serrano's urine. This gem had been around since around 1989. Liberals had no objection to Serrano earning a federal grant with this vulgar work, and, of course, Serrano, ever the professional, was incredulous that people deemed "Piss Christ" offensive. "I didn't think it would be a controversial or outrageous thing to do. Since I'd been working along these lines for years without incident, I felt I was living in a world that was very much accepting what I was trying to do." Serrano's enablers among the cultural elite saw nothing wrong or unduly offensive with his work either. They reserved their outrage for those, like Senator Jesse Helms, who campaigned to end federal funding for such nonsense. The elite culture had demonstrated similar insensitivity by refusing to register outrage at the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's federally funded exhibition celebrating homosexuality with depictions of a man urinating into the mouth of another and an artist posing with a bullwhip dangling from his posterior.

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