A controversial art display of a Star Wars Stormtrooper being crucified like Christ has been relocated from its prominent place in a central London church.
The crucified life size figure – of the iconic Imperial adversary first seen in 1977's hit Star Wars – was the centrepiece the Stations of the Cross exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook church in central London, showcased by contemporary art collective Art Below. The display, created by street artist Ryan Callanan (Or 'RYCA'), drew ire from some parishioners, however, who deemed it offensive or distracting, according to The Art Newspaper. It has now been relocated – but not removed – within the church before the exhibition opens on Thursday.
The church's priest-in-charge, Revd Jonathan Evens, said: 'This is an exhibition of images designed to provoke thought from artists grappling with their response to the challenge and scandal of Christ's cross. I commend these images to you as an image that can open our ideas and minds to new reflections on the eternal significance.'
He told the Daily Mail that the display 'raises similar questions to those which CS Lewis raised in his science fiction trilogy - that, were other races to exist on other planets, would Christ be incarnated among those races in order to die for their salvation? Lewis' view, which he sets out in the story running through the trilogy, is that Christ would do so.
'For Christians, Ryan Callanan's image can lead us a similar conclusion'.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Diocese of London said that Callanan's work 'was larger and more prominent than was anticipated when the exhibition was approved. Its position in the church as currently installed has proved to be distracting for some worshippers. As a result, following discussions with the curator, we have asked Art Below to reposition the work, so that it remains prominent but it is less of a distraction from the altar.'
Art Below founder and curator Ben Moore said he had defended the piece to church parishioners before it was allowed to stay. 'I explained the meaning of the piece, the way that some of them saw it is a stormtrooper is a very negative character,' he said.
'I like to think of it as a New Hope - such as in the new Star Wars film, where John Boyega rebels against the dark side and fights for something good.'
He added: 'With respect to the parish, I didn't want to upset anyone, I aim to create awareness and debate.' The Stormtrooper display will go on sale for £12,000 following the exhibition.