Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain
Artist: Damien Hirst
Date of Action: October 2013
Region: Middle East
Location: Doha, Qatar
Description of Artwork: "Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain," was a part of Damien Hirst's exhibition Relics in Doha, Qatar. The sculpture of Saint Bartholomew depicts the skinned martyr, his skin hung over his arm, with a fig leaf covering his genitals.
The Incident: When the statue was first presented in the Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong, Hirst added the leaf to prevent controversy amongst Chinese collectors. Hirst said that the leaf could have been removed when the statue was moved to Doha because Damien Hirst believed that people were more open-minded there.
For "Relics," the show's curator Francesco Bonami decided to leave the fig on the statue, but denied that it had been placed on the statue to prevent offense and controversy.
Results of Incident: The statue remained in Doha, with the fig leaf. Bonami said that "it is not about shocking people, we're coming not just to an Islamic culture, but a place where the general public has not been exposed to contemporary art. The covering of genitalia with fig leaves has been a longstanding tradition throughout history (eg.: When Michelangelo's David was first unveiled in Florence, people pelted it with rocks until the genitals were covered with real fig leaves).
Damien Hirst artworks censored for sensitive audiences in China and Qatar, The Independent, 18 October 2013
Art, From Conception to Birth in Qatar, NYTimes, 10/8/2013