Artwork of Jesus surrounded by hot leather daddies in EU exhibition has ring-wing bigots raging

Lesbian photographer Elisabeth Ohlson known for reflecting visual minorities in her photos.

An artwork depicting Jesus surrounded by leather-clad muscle daddies, displayed in a corridor of the European Parliament building, has sent right-wing EU officials into a red-faced rage.

It’s been branded “vulgar”, “disrespectful” and “blasphemous” by right-wing politicians from Italy and Poland, with one describing Jesus’ stern-looking pals as “sadomasochistic slaves”.

The artist says the work depicts Jesus “loving LGBTQ+ rights”. 

The images, by Swedish lesbian photographer Elisabeth Ohlson, are being displayed in a side corridor of the building in Brussels as part of a cultural exhibition hosted by left-wing politicians from across Europe.

Threats to close down the exhibition or remove photos deemed controversial have been made, Ohlson revealed on Instagram on Wednesday (3 May). 

Among the politicians voicing outrage was Maria Veronica Rossi, an MEP from Italy’s right-wing populist Lega Nord party, who told the Times: “It represents Jesus surrounded by apostles dressed as sadomasochistic slaves.”

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Her Lega colleague and Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, took to Facebook to slam the image with a caption alongside the photo that said: “Art? No just vulgarity and dissect.” 

Many people have commented under Salvini’s post, condemning him, with one stating: “Shame on you.”

Responding to critics, Ohlson said: “I would say that there should be more understanding because there are a lot of pictures of Jesus with heterosexuals, millions, billions of paintings [by] famous artists, but this is just one picture of Jesus loving LGBTQ+ rights. One picture should not be so scary for them.” 

The exhibition features several thought-provoking pieces, including one image that shows a soldier with his foot on a women’s shoulder as he kicks a boat out to sea.

Malin Björk, an MEP for the Swedish Left Party, said of negative reactions: “This confirms right-wing nationalist and conservative views when it comes to Christianity and LGBTI people. 

“We will stand up for our LBGTI siblings.”

The exhibition is due to run until the end of this week and is only accessible to those working in the parliament or who are granted special accreditation to visit. 

Ohlson frequently portrays LGBTQ+ people in her photography. In 2019, the Church of Sweden decided to remove her LGBTQ-inclusive altar piece, Paradise, after realising that some of the imagery could be interpreted as anti-trans.

At the time, the Church was criticised over the painting, which shows a trans woman in a tree holding a snake, associated with Satan in the Bible.