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Posted by on Mar 31, 2007 in Arts & Entertainment, Media, Religion | 36 comments

Chocolate Jesus Meltdown As Controversial Exhibit Cancelled


The highly controversial art exhibit in New York of “My Sweet Lord,” a naked, anatomically correct chocolate Jesus has reached meltdown: the exhibit has been canceled.

Is this a bittersweet moment for those who argue “art” should be broadly defined and protected — or a case of people twisting the concept of art and mocking religion getting their just desserts?

At issue is the life-sized Jesus (AP photo above) that may have thrilled chocoholics everywhere but didn’t thrill Roman Catholics and others who believe there should be some sensitivity displayed when it comes to religions. Reuters reports:

A Manhattan art gallery canceled on Friday its Easter-season exhibit of a life-size chocolate sculpture depicting a naked Jesus, after an outcry by Roman Catholics.

The sculpture “My Sweet Lord” by Cosimo Cavallaro was to have been exhibited for two hours each day next week in a street-level window of the Roger Smith Lab Gallery in Midtown Manhattan.

The display had been scheduled to open on Monday, days ahead of Good Friday when Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus. But protests including a call to boycott the affiliated Roger Smith Hotel forced the gallery to scrap the showing.

“Your response to the exhibit at the Lab Gallery is crystal clear and has brought to our attention the unintended reaction of you and other conscientious friends of ours to the exhibition of Cosimo Cavallaro,” Roger Smith Hotel President James Knowles said in a statement addressed to “Dear Friends.”

“We have caused the cancellation of the exhibition and wish to affirm the dignity and responsibility of the hotel in all its affairs,” the statement said.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights had called for a boycott of the hotel, writing to 500 religious and secular organizations.

“This is an assault on Christians during Holy Week,” said Kiera McCaffrey, director of communications for the league, which describes itself as the largest U.S. Catholic civil-rights group.

“They would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the prophet Mohammad naked with his genitals exposed during Ramadan,” she said before the cancellation.

The archbishop of New York called the sculpture “scandalous” and a “sickening display.”

“This is something we will not forget,” Cardinal Edward Egan said in a statement.

The controversy has been raging for days now but perhaps the most astute comment came from New York’s Mayor:

“If you want to give the guy some publicity, talk more about it, make a big fuss,” Bloomberg told WABC radio. “If you want to really hurt him, don’t pay attention.

The AP gives these details about the exhibit and its creative artist:

The sculpture was to debut Monday evening, the day after Palm Sunday and just four days before Roman Catholics mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The final day of the exhibit was planned for Easter Sunday.

The artwork was created from more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and features Christ with his arms outstretched as if on an invisible cross. Unlike the typical religious portrayal of Christ, the Cavallaro creation does not include a loincloth.

Cavallaro is best known for his quirky work with food as art: past efforts include repainting a Manhattan hotel room in melted mozzarella and spraying five tonnes of pepper jack cheese on a Wyoming home.

A room in melted mozzarella? That sounds like my old college dorm…

The artist, meanwhile, had not sounded entirely sympathetic about the furor surrounding his diet-busting holy depiction:

Cavallaro, an Italian immigrant who was reared Catholic, insisted he wasn’t trying to offend anyone. “This person is talking from a very narrow window,” he said of Donohue. “If it makes them feel better, I’ll ask for their forgiveness and do 10 Hail Marys, but they should just lighten up.”

And thus continues the tug that has gone on for several years now between those who take the definition of art to a meaning a bit beyond what it was 100 or perhaps even 40 years ago and those with a perhaps more constrained definition of art. And, add to that mix, the constant issue of what kind of artistic representation of a religious icon or something related to a religion represents an affront.

The issue here is double fold but the uproar was clearly not that Jesus was in chocolate. You can actually buy religious chocolates. Clearly, the issue was that Jesus was shown in all his naked glory — which is why the AP photo above shows you a back shot.

Remember: for a while the Virgin Mary seemingly appeared in a grilled cheese sandwhich and some considered it a miracle.

But Donohue’s group was outraged a few years back at a painting of the Virgin Mary — which used a splash of cow dung.


Fox News on cancellation
Catholics outraged at `My Sweet Lord’ chocolate crucifix display
Six-Foot Chocolate Jesus Most Anticipated Easter Work At Gallery (pre-controversy story)


Best Week Ever: “While I applaud Donohue’s provocative off-the-cuff artistic brainstorming… I personally find a giant Chocolate Jesus to be an infinitely more appropriate symbol for a religion who currently chooses to celebrate their holiest of holidays by having their kids look for Cadbury eggs hidden by a giant magical bunny. Besides, you could fill the Chocolate Jesus with peanut butter, and effectively disprove all of evolution in the process – that’s two doves with one stone.”

Preemptive Karma:

My thoughts run to the commercialization of Easter – the chocolate bunnies, etc. that have come to dominate the holiday, and the angst among Christians that what they see as the true meaning of the holiday has been forgotten. That meaning, of course, is the Resurrection of Jesus. Only rarely do Christians acknowledge that like Christmas, the holiday is a mixture of pagan and Christian traditions. For those who focus on the Resurrection, yearly plays and processions, early morning worship services, special meals that include lamb, etc. form a traditional religious celebration. As I see it, the chocolate Jesus symbolizes the commercialization of the Christian tradition that occurs when such traditions become capitalist ventures devoid of meaning….

….The chocolate Jesus is not only thought-provoking, it is also well-done. Most definitely, it qualifies as art.

Jawa Report: “In another sign of just how isolated from society the “art world” has become, promoters of a life size crucified Jesus made of milk chocolate are surprised that unveiling the work during Easter Week has caused controversy….[Noting that the gallery owner called this a Catholic “fatwa]Oh come on. Have your artist come up with a statue of Mohammed having sex with child bride Aisha, made of pork suet, and we’ll talk “fatwa,” you pussy.”

Michelle Malkin has a lot of news and other links and writes: “How would the MSM cover an artist exhibition of a “Chocolate Mohammed” timed to coincide with Ramadan? They wouldn’t. But find an artist to mock Jesus at Easter with a chocolate sculpture…and you’ll get wall to wall coverage…No pixelation. No withholding the photos in the name of respect for Christianity. No taboos. Where’s the MSM’s concern for avoiding deliberately provocative religious insults now.” She points to how the media held back on cartoons offending Muslims.

Ed Morrissey:

The artist could have made his satirical point in any case without showing the genitalia of the crucified Christ. That was needlessly provocative, and certainly intentional. As one person put it, who wouldn’t have expected controversy over that particular artistic choice? The artist’s assertion that Catholics should let him off with ten Hail Marys after he asks their forgoveness also shows a cluelessness about the Catholic faith. Penance only works when the sinner has truly repented and admitted his sins. It’s not a price list for offenses in that the commission of a particular sin costs 10 Hail Marys each time you commit it. For Cosimo Cavallaro to get any benefit from his 10 Hail Marys, he’d have to destroy the chocolate Jesus first.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • Joe: remember how major networks / newspapers didn’t want to show the cartoons of Mohammed out of fear of ‘insulting’ Muslims?


    (I’m of course not saying that they should not have published these photos: they should have published photos / images in both cases)

  • Eric

    Did you see where it was reported that the artist said people should see it and give it a lick? Regardless of beliefs how could this not piss people off?

  • domajot

    I could never bring myself to bite into a chocolate bunny: to replicate a savage devouring of a cute little
    creature is offensive to me. No one forces me to eat chocolate bunnies, however, and I don’t.

    No one is forcing people to attend the art exhibition. To avoid being offended, don’t go there.

    This is definitely a case of double standarditis, vis a vis the Danish cartoons.

    Personally, I think this particular art exercise is in poor taste, so I had plans to NOT attend the
    showing – an option open to all the faithful offendees.

  • Lynx

    I agree with all of those who point out the double standard between mocking Christianity and mocking Islam, however, I think that both should be allowed. I think that taking offense at this chocolate Jesus (or rather naked Jesus, I doubt it’s the chocolate that makes it offensive) while decrying the stance taken against the Danish cartoonists is also a double standard. Both things should be allowed. Now then, a boycott is also a form of free-speech and should certainly be protected. Boycotts are not attempts to censor, if you think something that’s fine, but I have a right to protest against this.

    I understand how maddening it is for Christians to be the target of mockery because they aren’t violent and therefore aren’t “respected” out of fear, but I don’t think the solution is to ban all mockery of religion, just because one religion is spared through dirty means. We all know that if it weren’t because of fear, Islam would be ridiculed to no end, we all also know that most westerners feel no love of the religion, even if they don’t see jokes about it as much as about Christians.

  • ptg

    You can still see Nebraska’s own Lard Mohammed. He isn’t naked, but he has a big sword.

  • Lynx: I agree.

  • As an artists, I find this offensive, not because it mocks religion- which is always a positive (as the power elite shd always be humbled), but because it’s just bad, bad art. It also shows the artist as an incorrigible child, and not someone with real ideas. Let’s eat the lord- real brave and original. Really makes one think, eh?

    Same for the Dung Mary and Piss Christ.

    And there is a double standard, which shows how cowardly these folk are. I openly state I’m against all religion, I’m pro-abortion, pro-drug legalization, etc. And if lunatics wanna start with me they will get more than they bargained for. But these ‘artists’ are children with no creativity nor balls.

    Another example of the worst of a segment in society getting their 15 mins. for the worst possible reasons.

  • cosmoetica, I am a Christian and will probably disagree with you on most things, but you have stated the case that I wish that I had made. This is “art” the same way that over-the-top signs are at an Anti-American rally. It’s a bumper sticker in chocolate, or dung or urine.

    I am in awe of the ability of these “artists” to get paid for this crap. That is a phenomenal marketing job.

  • jpe

    I think it’s a terribly interesting piece, and not at all offensive. There’s all kinds of neat stuff at work (we eat Jesus every Sunday, for instance). Easter being totally commercialized, it makes one wonder if the objecting parties aren’t creating a fetish object out of this and displacing their anger at the commercialization of Easter onto this literalization of the phenomenon (“how dare they acknowledge the obvious!”)

  • Lynx

    I’m going to take advantage of the “what is art?” side of this story and tell you folks a story that happened here in Spain very recently which I, personally, find hilarious.

    Very recently Madrid had a modern art exposition (ARCO). From the small sampling I saw online it was all abstract art, though none of it in human bodily fluids. Count me as a severe skeptic in this sort of art. Anyhow, a television program had a nifty idea. They took a blank canvas to a daycare center and put it on the floor, together with three buckets of yellow, blue and red paint, and let the kids (all around two or three) have at it. The result was smuggled into the art exhibit. They found a hiding place and mounted the canvas and hung it in a discreet place (the expo was huge and not in a regular museum, so this is doable). They then proceeded to interview people about what they thought about the painting, pretending it was one of the legitimate paintings at the exhibit. Well, not a single one of those interviewed said it was crap. The opinions were tremendously funny; two young women said the painting showed loneliness and despair (all the while a small image of the kids painting it, having a blast, was being shown in the corner of the video). When asked what he thought the painter was like, and older man said with much authority that it looked like an experienced painter, probably male, because of all the “sexual energy” coming from the painting. Best television I’ve ever seen.

    Anyone who knows Spanish and/or wants to see how arbitrary artistic appreciation actually is sometimes, can see it here.

  • Money: Yes, it is all marketingm, the true American religion.

    jpe: The very manifestnes of what you say of their manifestness is exactly what makes it marketing, not art. Think about it.

  • Sandy

    That doesn’t even look like Jesus, so who cares?

    No one even knows what Jesus looks like. I can sculpt anything and call it Jesus. Dumb.

  • Lynx- you got it. This is why Abstract Expressionism is such a fraud- drips, or canvases painted a whole color. Yet, there are dumb people who buy into this. I once saw a Yoko Ono exhibit at the Walker Museum, and this singer I knew was in gape-jawed awe of a dot on a white sheet of paper.

    I said, ‘Wow, a dot. What originality.’

    The singer, ‘Yes, I know. She’s always been ahead of the times.’

    I did a doubletake. I said, ‘I was being facetious.’

    The singer paused, and after five seconds, with a vacancy in her glare, said, ‘Oh.’

  • Tom

    Perhaps the “art” is questionable, but my concern is with the Catholic Church and its abuse of power. As this ancient institution loses credibility and control, (as it should, for it’s a far cry from what Jesus intended) it seeks power where it may yet be found.

    This piece of work is kindly done, whatever its artistic merit might be. In spite of centuries of depicting the crucified Christ draped, He was likely naked. Can such art be separated from Mel Gibson’s? Who’s to say which is which? Why must the “church” be giving its imprimatur, only because it longs for the Middle Ages when it controlled the western world?

    As for me, as long as folks are thinking about it, and the church settles down and gets a life – putting service ahead of indignation – and our freedoms remain intact, then there’s hope.

  • Art remains to be one of those few things that people who don’t make it, look at it, study it, collect it, or dare I say understand it, are allowed to have a vocal ‘expert’ opinions on. Art’s ability to enrage or stir such passion means that it’s power still remains.

    The true offense is my brother coming home from Iraq without his legs and telling me that he had to shoot civilians. We were both Catholic altar boys and had to jump naked into the swimming pool with Father ‘Shenanigans’.

    The “My Sweet Jesus” debacle in the media is just a five minute distraction from the fact that we really don’t love each other enough to keep our hands off of each others beliefs, bodies, and intellects.

  • I wish Mr. Donohue would devote his energies to feeding hungry children instead.

  • If the sculpture had been made in dark chocolate would this then become an issue about race?

  • Patrick:

    ‘Art’s ability to enrage or stir such passion means that it’s power still remains.’

    Art provokes intellect and depth. What you describe are bumper stickers, which is what most artists these days are only capable of.

  • domajot

    The question remains: who should decide what is good or bad art.
    Opinions are open for anyone to form, but opinions should not be enforced by a posse.

    I don’t want a neighborhood committee deciding what art I choose to look at. I’m a grown up. I’ll take my own chances.

    This whole thing is kind of a silly thing to worry about. I can understand why artists take it seriously; they have to compete comercially with bad, as well as good, art.

    The general public would have more fun in life if they relaxed a bit on the subject. You don’t have to grade everything you see and hear. Relax, and see what any experience has to offer. If the colors in a painting done by a monkey please you, enjoy the colors’ if not, walk on.

  • Clay Robinson

    Bill Donohue and all of his Catholic Avengers are lost. Anyone with an ounce of sense would not be offended by the chocolate depiction of Christ.
    It is ignorance fueled by ego that brought about the removal of the sculpture, need I remind the world that in his heart Adolph Hitler thought he was doing Gods will. Mr. Donohue and his like need to focus on the problems within their own organization; Ican not count the number of times I have seen a program where a gay priest has molested yet another innocent child. It is time to demand more from the Catholic Church, this is just pathetic.

  • egrubs

    If I could see it, I wouldn’t.

    But it irks me that there is an uproar. That’s troublesome. Expression is expression, even if it’s idiotic, infantile expression.

    We can’t pick and choose.

  • Fascinating. I think “religious” people of all stripes have a tendency to take themselves and their icons way too seriously, just as nationalistic people get caught up in their symbols, like the flag. I’m somewhat surprised to see erudite people here dismissing all nonrepresentational art. Much of it is pleasing to the eyes of many and it seems awfully limiting to dismiss it, though I admit the Madrid piece is highly amusing. So, I offer you all an amusing time-waster that I guarantee many of you will enjoy. Just placing splotches of colors of your choosing on your ‘canvas’ can be both fun and creative, and in the hands of a good artist, can create evocative works of beauty, despite the absence of recognizable images. Cmon folks, haven’t we all gazed in wonder at clouds and ‘seen’ images in them that come from within ourselves and excite our imaginations?

    As for “My Sweet Lord,” I would love to see it. Good sculpture is interesting, whether it’s marble, plaster or chocolate, and the comparison with the chocolate bunny that is the commercial epitome of Easter is obviously thought provoking.

  • j prince

    >So the rat infested, flea-bag that the roger smith hotel is, was going to benefit from this so called “art ” exbition (redux) instead turns out to be a total loss, since the
    Catholic League sent out 500 letters to possible users of the rat infested flea-bag so called hotel.Oh the infinite ways of Divine Providence….Take that to the bank, Mr James Knowles (pres).

  • Rudi

    Maybe Bill Donahue can kiss/lick the Holy Ass.

  • Fred Sanford

    A GREAT piece of art – would love to see it in person. I am always amazed by how some simple, truthful little things can absolutely infuriate some people. The only thing that I could see anyone getting angry over this piece about, would be if it were HOLLOW! Haha – just a little JOKE there, folks…put down them bibles and torches…ain’tcha got no SENSE OF HUMOR?!? Yeesh.

  • Doma: ‘The question remains: who should decide what is good or bad art.’

    Wrong question. The right one is WHAT decides what is good or bad art. A well constructed car or house is not dependent upon taste, but objective engineering and architectural excellence.

    Like and dislike have zero to do with excellence, and all human endeavors have criteria.

  • C. Pedrano

    In articles concerning the naked, chocolate Christ, there is hardly any mention of how non-Catholic Christians view the situation.

    The majority of Christians are not Catholic.

    The lack of attention to non-Catholic Christian views in this matter (together with overwhelming attention to Catholic views in this matter) suggests a one-sided prejudice in favor of those whose media-published comments discredit Catholics only.

  • Laura L

    COuld some of the objection be racially motivated? The chocolate Jesus as a stand in for a dark skinned Jesus, who only turns ‘white’ (and unappealing) as the oils flow to the surface?

  • I’m surprised at how overwhelmingly the debate I see carried on here is about whether the cocoa Christ is “art,” and whether it’s “good art” or “bad art,” much more than what the anti-exhibit reaction demonstrates. People– Christian, Western (ergo, supposedly more ‘civilised’) people– were making death threats. Death threats! And we’re supposed to be bringing civilisation and democracy to those ‘barbarian’ nations in the Middle East, where– for shame!– among other things, they threaten those who don’t show sufficient deference for religion with death. Freedom of speech is supposed to be one of the most basic, core fundamental principles of democracy (which we say is so absolutely important to us, which we say makes us ‘better,’ ‘saner,’ ‘more progressive’) because without the freedom to speak out and disagree and dissent all the other pillars of our way of life quickly crumble. If the people who issued death threats want to live somewhere that decisions about what’s acceptable and what’s not are made that way, maybe they should move to– say– Iran. Then when the US decides to ‘liberate’ and ‘democratise’ that country, they’ll get a free course in freedom of speech. Living with it doesn’t seem to have educated them, maybe they just need to encounter it as a stranger in order to learn to appreciate it.

  • KBuilder

    What is this nonsense about a double standard? The media didn’t hold back on publishing the Muhammed cartoons out of regard for the sensitivities of devout Muslims but out of fear of murderous reprisal. The Catholic hierarchy responded with enough force to cause the chocolate Jesus exhibit to be cancelled. If they responded with equal force against the media showing images of the exhibit you could expect most of the media to fold as well. If a homeless person comes into my convenience store and I refuse to give him a dollar and five minutes later someone waves a gun in my face and I give him the entire contents of the till, who would call this having a double standard?

  • White Agent

    Its art! Art is supposed to communicate. The communication was that Christ was sweet and he had a pecker. The debate is whether or not he ever used it, which has nothing to do with the art! Interestingly enough, there is no debate over the sweetness of Christ represented in chocolate. Its all about that evil pecker….the father of all mankind.

  • G. Weightman

    Who needs the Catholic vote in 2008, anyway. If the Papists can’t take a joke…

  • A number of years back Tom Waits did a song called “Chocolate Jesus”. See a video clip of that song and a satirical attempt to answer the pressing question, “Does Jesus melt in your mouth, not in your hand?…here:

  • Mr. X

    This type of anger and intolerance is exactly what causes the majority of wars in our society.

    It Seems to me that most are upset that the figure is dark skinned and it could have something to do with the fact that in the bible @ 1:15 it describes Jesus’ feet as “ And his feet like unto fine brass, “ But, as always, for every statement theirs an opposing opinion. The “feet of fine brass” line has been used many times to argue for jesus being black or of Middle Eastern race, however many often leave out the rest “as if they burned in a furnace;â€?. Polished bronze is the color of fine gold, so some believe if it was burning in a furnace & glowing, his feat would be white hot. Implying that he was white So he could have been black or white. The bottom line is Nobody knows so the brown chocolate should work just as good as white.

    As for the nudity, at least it’s biblically accurate. Jesus should have been crucified naked, as were most victims of crucifixion.

    When seen from the outside (non- Catholic, Christian or Muslim), your squabbles between sects look like fights between little children on the playground. Very silly.

    The simple fact is, no place in the bible do you get a clear description of Jesus. This alone should alert you to the validity of this book. You are being asked to give up a “childlike faith� & believe that when Jesus walked this earth nobody took the time out to notice what color he was and write it down. Come on! In reality only a child or a retard would be gullible enough to believe this proving that there are A large number of retards in the world or that when we all were children & lacked understanding of the dynamics of race this One fact was slipped past you. But Now that you are an adult please think about it because if you can’t come to the same conclusion that I did & have an IQ of above 79, I have no choice but to label you a retard.

    Maybe we should stop worrying about who is right as it’s ridiculous when you think about it, people fighting over which is the “one, true religion”– I don’t believe there is any such thing, as I believe there are many roads to God. Another ridiculous thing is people fighting over the “correct” way to worship God. That is just stupid.

  • the christianist crack me up…i mean aren’t there some cults where they actually eat jesus??? and drink his blood?

    (i might have heard some call this communion…)

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