Polish sculptor unveils 'superhuman' John Paul II
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An unusual sculpture depicting Saint John Paul II holding up a meteorite was unveiled in Warsaw on Thursday -- an artistic response to a controversial statue showing the rock striking down the late pope.
Jerzy Kalina's installation outside the National Museum, titled "Poisoned Source", shows the Polish pope holding the meteorite high over a pool of red water representing blood. "In Kalina's view, John Paul II is not a powerless old man crushed by a meteorite, but a titan of superhuman strength," the museum said in a statement on its website.
The installation has already prompted online derision and criticism from art commentators who said it simply reflects the ultra-Catholic outlook of Poland's populist government.
One image shared on social media transforms the statue into a depiction of a plane passenger trying to put a suitcase into an overhead compartment, while another showed people fleeing the advance of a giant version of the statue.
Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan drew controversy in Poland for his wax statue shown at the 1999 Venice Biennale depicting pope John Paul II -- then living -- being crushed by a meteor. When the sculpture, titled "La Nona Ora", was exhibited at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw in 2000, two lawmakers tried to remove the rock and stand the statue upright, according to media reports.
The head of the museum was forced to resign. Kalina's statue is intended to mark the 100th anniversary of John Paul II's birth.
"The artist himself perceives the pope as a man who played a decisive role in the recent history of Poland and Europe and set in motion a process of historical, social and spiritual transformation," the museum said.
While he is still widely revered in Poland also for his role in helping to inspire the anti-communist movement, the pope's handling of sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church has increasingly come under scrutiny.