Photographer Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” is getting attention again and like the debut of his camera work in 1987, it’s making headlines for the wrong reasons. The image, now on view at #The Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, TX, pictures a plastic crucifix floating in a jar of the artist’s urine.

If you didn’t know the title or that the fluid surrounding the cross was body waste, the photo would impart an otherworldly glow too and a worshipful air, certainly not some shocking art that led the U.S. Congress to chop NEA funding a whopping 40 percent.

Art appreciation gone off the rails?

Yet this art museum chose to focus on the controversy, the political upshot of the work and pitch the photo in the same show with a portrait of #Donald Trump to press the commonality between the president’s intent to cut NEA funding and the cuts brought about by “Piss Christ.” Congressional dissension was never the point.

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Promoting the ethereal image of a cross with that of Trump undercuts Serrano’s avowed aim: to protest the commercialization and cheapening of Christian icons and make them into a junk religion. As he has famously said at the outset, “For me, ‘Piss Christ’ was always an act of devotion. I was born and raised a Catholic and have been a Christian all my life.” He also told the French publication Liberation in 2011 that he has no tolerance for blasphemy.

Congressional dissension was never the point. Promoting the ethereal image of a cross with that of Trump undercuts Serrano’s avowed aim: to protest the commercialization and cheapening of Christian icons and make them into a junk religion. As he has famously said at the outset, “For me, ‘Piss Christ’ was always an act of devotion. I was born and raised a Catholic and have been a Christian all my life.” He also told the French publication Liberation in 2011 that he has no tolerance for blasphemy.

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Getting ‘Piss Christ’ all wrong

Heralding “Piss Christ” in the context of political controversy is like pointing to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel altar fresco “The Last Judgment” as a story about the church’s objection to nudity. While it’s true that the clergy - including the Pope of the time – was upset about the exposed flesh in the painting and even went so far as to have the bared bodies covered, such reaction is not the point of the work. It was only a result.

Politics are not the big story here

Another example of diverting attention away from an artwork and focusing on a side story about the furor it caused would be if D.C. pitched the Washington Monument as an art object of wide and sustained debate. Yes, the election of the memorial was hotly debated about how to honor the Founder of the country. Should it be a sculpted likeness sitting on a horse like the one in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History? Or something on the order of the old Romans commemorating their Emperors?

The art museum should know better

In the end, the object of choice was an icon in the abstract, a bright beam in a dark world signaling immortality.

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Like “Piss Christ” and “The Last Judgment,” the arguments over the Washington Monument were never the point. And given the high artfulness of Serrano’s photograph, you’d expect an art museum to know that.