Gallery boss defiant on priapic Buddha

The gallery owner who sparked a religious row by exhibiting an aroused Buddha has remained defiant as he flew back to the UK to face possible police action.

The gallery owner who sparked a religious row by exhibiting an aroused Buddha has remained defiant as he flew back to the UK to face possible police action.

David Koppel, owner of the St Giles Street Gallery in Norwich, has been threatened with arrest after Norfolk police's hate crime unit investigated the £125,000 work displayed in his shop window.

Detectives also threatened to seize and destroy the Colin Self statue which has been accused of debasing the Buddhist faith by depicting the icon with two polished eggs and a metal banana arranged in his lap like a man's genitalia.

Until now officers have been temporarily appeased after Mr Koppel's staff turned the sculpture around so passers-by would not be offended. But he told the EDP he has no intention of bowing to public pressure.

“Morally I am totally convinced that this work should be allowed to be seen and it is my intention to continue to display it as prominently as possible,” said Mr Koppel as he boarded a plane to return from his holiday in the south of France.

“I will be back in Norfolk next week and I will be taking legal advice. I have no qualms about being arrested and, if necessary, I will allow them to take me away as a protest in favour of artistic freedom.

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“What I don't want is for the sculpture to be destroyed as that would be a terrible waste. I think it is a powerful image and a tremendous, striking piece of art.”

Police said they had been deluged with complaints about the figure which forms the centrepiece of Norwich-based Self's A Trilogy: The Iconoclasts.

The three bronzes, previously housed at the Royal Academy, ponder the misuse of religion and also include Hindu god Ganesh sitting beneath a Nazi helmet and Christ crucified on the back of a bomber plane.

Members of the Norwich Buddhist Centre are among those to have contacted the police. Tom Llewellyn, from the centre, said as great many people had been genuinely upset by the display. “It is crass and inappropriate and I don't think it has much value or imagination,” he added.

Self defended the work saying it was designed to highlight how easy it is to cause offence in a global village in which different cultures collide.

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