An NGO seeking to protect the interests of Christians has raised a storm over the decor of a restaurant in a Mumbai suburb. Goregaon Social, at the Oberoi Mall, had a rather Biblically-inclined theme for its interiors, featuring church pews for seats and tabernacle as backdrop to the bar. Christ and his apostles appeared on stained glass, carrying handbags and gadgets. If you could enter an Internet meme in three dimensions, this would be it.
But this eccentric set-up managed to hurt religious sentiments. Petitions were filed, scathing criticism was made by the Archdiocese of Bombay, a protest was threatened until, finally, the restaurant, which belongs to a popular chain across India, had to grovel with an apology, promising to remove everything that caused offence to good Christians.
The day seems to have been saved for business, but not for freedom of expression and, most importantly, for humour.
After what the Hindu Right did to the late artist, MF Husain, for painting Goddess Saraswati in the nude, one doesn't have the heart to dismiss religious fanatics and their keenly sensitive reaction to art. However, the irony of being outraged by the appropriation of Christianity by artists must strike anyone remotely aware of the history of art as patently absurd, if not laughable.
From the explicit paintings of the 15th-century artist, Hieronymus Bosch, to the contemporary Andres Serrano's hugely controversial 1989 installation Piss Christ, examples scandalous revisiting of Christian iconography abound through the centuries. Memes about Jesus and his disciples are ubiquitous, so are pastiches involving scenes from the Bible.
One of the most popular among such satirical portals is Classical Art Memes, existing on various social media platforms, which morphs iconic paintings and sculptures by adding hilarious captions to them. It doesn't spare anyone, however pious. To be honest, you don't have to look beyond traditional Christian paintings and sculptures to discover some whacky detail tucked away in a corner. And that's why these artworks are so susceptible to being re-immortalised in memes.
Here's our pick of some LOL ones out there online.