• Ben-Zion, The Prophetess Deborah, 1957, Oil on canvas.

  • George Wesley Bellows, The Sawdust Trail, 1916, Oil on canvas.

  • Kiki Smith, Processional Cross, 1990s, Sculpture.

  • Georges Rouault, Crucifixion, 1937, Oil on canvas.

  • Mark Tobey, The Last Supper (detail), 1945, Tempera on paper.

Biblical Art in a Secular Century

Selections, 1896-1993

December 14, 2006–March 11, 2007

Biblical Art in a Secular Century explored the work of 20th-century artists-household names like Marc Chagall, Kiki Smith, and Jeff Koons among them-who found the visual heritage, themes, and devotional practices of the Judeo-Christian tradition to be rich ground for creative exploration.

The exhibition, drawn from the collections of museums internationally, sketched a framework for the various ways in which artists have mined this tradition, whether as an act of faith; a search for identity; out of intellectual curiosity; in service of a commission; or for other reasons less well-defined. Themes such as biblical suffering as metaphor for contemporary grief and social disease; churches as patrons of art; cultural/religious identity; and positions vis-a-vis organized religion were investigated. The exhibition and an accompanying symposium, broadened the contextual analysis, were intended as a point of entry into the varied discussion of art and religion in the twentieth century.

Support for Biblical Art in a Secular Century was provided, in part, through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.