'Disrespectful' icon exhibition finishes

The controversial fruity Buddha will finally take its final bow in Norfolk today as the exhibition which sparked public outcry comes to an end.

The controversial fruity Buddha will finally take its final bow in Norfolk today as the exhibition which sparked public outcry comes to an end.

Gallery owner David Koppel said the showcase had always been scheduled to conclude this week and he has refused to bow to pressure after the police hate crime unit responded to complaints over the aroused religious icon.

A second embassy has become embroiled in the row with the Royal Thai first secretary Narut Soontarodom asking that the “disrespectful display” be removed. Earlier this week a Sri Lankan ambassador made a similar plea.

Mr Soontarodom says: “I hope I can persuade you and Colin Self to prevent the issue from turning into a deeper undesirable situation by keeping the statue away from public display.”

Despite attracting worldwide attention the £125,000 Colin Self piece, which depicts the icon with a food offering of a banana and two eggs in its lap, has not yet attracted any bids.

Mr Koppel said the gallery had attracted many more visitors than expected but added he was disappointed the other pieces on display - including Hindu elephant god Ganesh beneath a Nazi helment and Christ crucified on a plane - had not attracted the same publicity.

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“Colin's work features two other pieces and there are also works by two more artists currently on display, but all people seem to be interested in is the Buddha sculpture,” he said.

“We have remained defiant throughout and I am proud of the fact we have stood up for the principle of artistic freedom. But the exhibition has run its natural course and it is time to move on to something else which will hopefully capture the public's imagination to a similar degree.”

Mr Koppel eventually reached a compromise with police by agreeing to remove it from the shop window to further inside the gallery.

One Buddhist leader has told the EDP he is happy with the compromise. Padmadaka, chairman of the Norwich Buddhist Centre, said: “Whether it was on a Buddha statue is beside the point. If it was on a statue of Nelson or Churchill people would have complained.”

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