In September 2013, a gallery in Rome organized an exhibition of works by the young Spanish artist Gonzalo Orquín (1982), who is living in Rome with his Italian partner. The exhibition shows pictures of same-sex couples that are kissing in front of altars in churches throughout Rome.
These photos caused a controversy in the media, after the Vatican had railed against showing these pictures. The Vatican argued that no prior consent was given for the photo shoots, even though the photos could have been taken by one of the many tourists that daily visit these public churches.
Because of all the media attention, the exhibition suffered a disastrous fate. Orquín’s photos and a number of paintings in the gallery were air sprayed. The Italian media soon came to the conclusion that this act of destruction was a publicity stunt by the artist and/or the gallery. But as an artist, Gonzalo Orquín is arrived. His work has been represented by the renowned art fair TEFAF and is in great demand.
Till May 11, 2014, Orquín’s “scandalous” pictures are on display at the exhibition “Tweestrijd” at Gallery MooiMan in Groningen. The exhibition was officially opened by the fashion duo Teigetje & Woelrat, the former life partners of author Gerard Reve, whose real names are Willem Bruno van Albada and Henk van Manen. This is an appropriate choice: in 1969, Gerard Reve was honored with a television program on the occasion of being awarded the literary P.C. Hooft Award, which was aired from the Allerheiligste Hartkerk (Vondel Church) in Amsterdam.
During the circus-like show, Gerard Reve and Willem Bruno van Albada strode through the church as if part of a marriage ceremony. A situation that is reminiscent of Orquín’s pictures. “Many Catholics were extremely shocked by this ‘misuse’ of hallowed ground, and the walls of the church were plastered with slogans such as [...] ‘faggot church,’” according to Hans Hafkamp in his little book about Gerard Reve and Amsterdam. Apparently, homosexual love in a catholic church is still highly combustible.