Art show in British cathedrals view fresh look at Christ

A new video installation called "The Messenger", created by artist Bill Viola, is hung under the ceiling of St. Paul's Cathedral. It is part of a major exhibition of contemporary religious art to be shown around cathedrals across Britain.

The Anglican Church hopes this will challenge traditional view of Christ and spirituality. The Very Rev. John Moses, the dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, said, "We sometimes forget that for 1,800 years the Christian story has been the most important single influence in the shaping of art forms in the Western world, whether it is literature or painting or sculpture or music.

"I happen to believe that if the Church is serious in working with people where they are today then it needs to rediscover a working relationship with artists of all traditions."

Works for the religious exhibition themed "Presence: Images of Christ for the Third Millenium" include Jill Sim's "Blue Christ," a bronze statue with a crown of thorns gathered from the Serbian-Kosovan border; a monoprint of Christ coming down from the cross by artist Tracy Emin, who previously outraged critics by presenting her soiled, unmade bed as a masterpiece; and a video work by Mark Wallinger that shows a man riding the escalators in London's Angel subway station.

According to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the exhibition explored ways of representing Jesus.

"There are thousands of people who will come through, many who never go into a gallery," said curator Meryl Doney. "Art was always in churches, around the altar, so it's really coming back to its rightful place."

The show includes 72 works and 43 artists. After displaying Viola's work and several other paintings this month at St. Paul's, it will move to five other Cathedrals around Britain, which are in Canterbury, Lincoln, Worcester, Durham and Glasgow.