Jani Leinonen’s sculpture “Mcjesus” sparked violent protests in Israel

Finnish artist Jani Leinonen received unexpected worldwide attention earlier this year as his sculpture, depicting a crucified McDonald sparked violent protests outside the Haifa Museum of Art in Israel on January 14th.

The sculpture, called “McJesus,” was included in an exhibition called Sacred Goods, that was meant to be a critique of society’s capitalistic culture. The sculpture had been up already since August 2018 and shown in other countries without any incidents. Violent clashes broke out between Christian protesters and the police, after a molotov cocktail was thrown at the museum and the protesters tried to storm their way in to remove the work.

The Sacred Goods exhibition, which focuses on contemporary artists’ responses to issues of religion and faith in consumer society, also featured other provocative works depicting Jesus and the Virgin Mary as Ken and Barbie dolls. 

The Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev demanded censorship of the sculpture and threatened to cut state funds for the museum, however the Israel’s justice ministry argued she has no such authority.  

The museum told the Times of Israel that it condemned the violence that broke out in protest of the sculpture. 

“A discourse about art, however complex it may be, must not spill over into violent territory and must be respected — even in charged situations,” the museum’s director Nissim Tal said. 

Eventually, the Haifa Museum was forced to remove the sculpture before the end of the exhibition, whereas no other works considered provocative were removed. 

Several global news channels covered the story including The Washington Post, New York Post, Reuters, RT, The Guardian, Artnet News, Independent UK, NPR NewsHaaretz, amongst others.