Politico's Dylan Byers reports that the Associated Press removed an image of Andres Serrano's 1987 photo Piss Christ from its photo library in the wake of today's deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Update: The AP pulled the photos after the conservative Washington Examiner noted that it pixelated Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting Mohammad but left images of Piss Christ intact, as Slate points out.
Removing images of the artwork seems preposterous. I searched AP's library for Piss Christ before this post went up found at least one photo of Serrano posing in front of his most well-known work, which depicts a crucifix submerged in the artist's own urine. But a few minutes later, it was gone. What gives?
"It's been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images," AP spokeswoman Erin Madigan told Byers when he asked about the removal. "It is fair to say we have revised and reviewed our policies since 1989." Little is known about the Paris attackers, but it is likely that they were inspired by Charlie's publishing of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad.
If the AP once hosted a full-bleed photo of Piss Christ like the Wikipedia image we're using above, I wasn't able to find it; that may have been the removed photo referenced in Byers' post. Earlier this evening the aforementioned photos of Serrano posing with his work were still available, as well as an image of a museum curator alongside a copy of Piss Christ that was attacked by a group of apparent Christian extremists when it was displayed in France in 2011. As of this writing, the image of the vandalized work is the only one that remains.
Madigan gave a version of the same boilerplate she provided to Byers when I asked about the photos, and has not yet responded to a request to confirm that the removals were in response to the attacks. If they were, it is a cowardly and unfortunate capitulation to the men who killed 12 people today in an apparent effort to quell speech. But it isn't particularly surprising: the Associated Press was among the outlets that pixelated images of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons in its coverage of the attacks today.
In any event, here's Piss Christ in all its heavy-handed glory.
[Image via Andres Serrano]