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Exhibit That Touched Off Catholic Protest Closes

Religion

December 20, 1997|KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS

An art exhibit depicting, in part, the Virgin Mary with a metal culvert protruding from her middle has completed its run at a museum in downtown Los Angeles and may be heading for a permanent home in Europe.

The 14-week display of the complex piece by artist Robert Gober closed Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Geffen Contemporary. The work drew raves from the art community as well as scathing protests from many Catholics who viewed it as an attack on a beloved symbol.

A rally staged by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property shortly before the exhibit closed drew several hundred protesters. In addition, a letter-writing campaign initiated by the Catholic group has generated thousands of letters, most of them negative, said MOCA Director Richard Koshalek.

There was never any intent to "desecrate a holy image," he said. Still, he added: "We also feel that an artist has the right to express his thoughts."

Koshalek said a "number of people" have expressed interest in seeing the work permanently installed in an unspecified European venue, adding, "I don't think the piece will totally disappear."

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