Luke Sullivan

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Luke Sullivan

Luke Sullivan (born 30 March 1961, in Singapore) is an Australian visual artist most notable for his internationally controversial work, The Fourth Secret of Fatima.[1][2][3]

Sullivan's practice is considered to be representative of Eclecticism, a European tangent of Postmodernism that emphasizes the artist's obligation to explore diverse subject matter, mediums and referencing. Since the 1990s, the movement has taken a more critical examination of social, political, religious and corporate institutions, and includes the UK's Tracey Emin and America's Tom Sachs.[4]

Since 2000, Sullivan's work has moved from a predominantly constructionist application of found objects and materials, to a more complex exploration of style and medium. Terrorism, Religious Symbolism and Iconography, Environmental degradation and social mores form much of Sullivan's subject matter.[5] Rhythm Method 2007, a work referencing the only form of contraception approved by The Vatican, was exhibited at London's Royal Academy of Arts in the same year, further building the artist's reputation for irreverent social and religious commentary.[6]

The Fourth Secret of Fatima[edit]

In August 2007, Sullivan's work The Fourth Secret of Fatima became the focus of international media attention and is regarded as one of the most provocative and controversial works of religious art since Andres Serrano's Piss Christ. The piece, a statue of the Virgin Mary wearing a burqa, was intended to draw attention to the oppression of women in dogmatic forms of religion such as Islam, but ignited world-wide debate and condemnation in the media. Exhibited with fellow Australian artist Priscilla Brack's incendiary image of Jesus Christ morphing into Osama bin Laden, the works were reported in over 250 international newspapers as well as broad network coverage including Reuters, CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. Leading a wave of political and religious condemnation, then Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared the work to be "gratuitously offensive".[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

In the aftermath to the controversy ABC's Virginia Haussegger noted,

"In the tradition of some of the greatest art scandals, Luke Sullivan's work has challenged, provoked and unsettled everyone who has laid eyes on it".


In his 2008 exhibition, Freestyler, Sullivan expanded his oeuvre to include paintings of air disasters and highjackings. His recreation of Flight 175's infamous approach moments before its collision with the World Trade Center was explained by the artist as "a painting of an image that had been burnt into my psyche".


  1. ^ "Bin Laden & Virgin Mary in Art Row" , Stefanie McIntyre, Reuters, August 2007
  2. ^ "Furor over Burqa-clad Virgin Mary, Jesus morphing into Osama bin Laden" USA Today, September 2007
  3. ^ "Fury on Virgin Mary's Burqa" Elizabeth Fortescue, Heath Aston, Herald Sun, August 2007
  4. ^ "Art and Blasphemy", Timothy Morrell, ArtLink Magazine, 2007
  5. ^ See Eclecticism in art
  6. ^ Luke Sullivan Sophie Hann 2008
  7. ^ Royal Academy Illustrated 2007, Bill Woodrow RA, Page 174, Royal Academy of Arts Publications, ISBN 978-1-903973-23-3
  8. ^ "Christian-Muslim Mix in Art Stirs Furore in Australia", Lawrence Van Gelder, New York Times, August 2007
  9. ^ "Artists Mock Christian Faith Again", Elizabeth Fortescue, The Daily Telegraph, August 2007
  10. ^ "Christ-like Bin Laden Image Stirs Debate in Australia", Katrine Narkiewiez, The Washington Post, September 2007
  11. ^ "Australian Art Exhibition Angers Critics" Joseph Curl, The Washington Times, August 2007
  12. ^ Godly Works Provide a Mixed Blessing, Alistair Jones, The Australian, May 2008
  13. ^ "The Nerve between Pop Culture and Religious Fundamentalism", Ron Pattendon, The Blake Society, September 2007
  14. ^ "The Religious Art Show Where Jesus Bin Laden Meets Mary in a Burqa", Richard Shears, The Daily Mail (London), September 2007
  15. ^ "Pell Pans Tedious Insult in Art Prize", Jill Rowbotham, The Australian, August 2007
  16. ^ "Outrage over Portrait of Bin Laden as Jesus Christ", Kathy Marks, The Independent, (UK) September 2007
  17. ^ "Once Again Sneering Artists Mock the Christian Faith", Elizabeth Fortescue. The Daily Telegraph 2007
  18. ^ Surfies Versus Westies: Mateship & Sexuality in the Cronulla Riot, Anthony Redmond, The Australian Journal of Anthropology December 2007
  19. ^ Art and Religion, Again, Articulate, ABC Television 30 August 2007
  20. ^ Jesus-Osama Piece Not Meant to Offend Brendan Trembath, ABC News 30 August 2007
  21. ^ "Is Osama bin Christ Art or is it Sacrilege"? Elizabeth Fortescue and Lilian Saleh, The Daily Telegraph August 2007
  22. ^ "For Art’s Sake Let’s Stop Mortal Spin on Mary Burqa", Virginia Haussegger, Canberra Times, September 2007
  23. ^ Feminism In Religion, Kathleen McPhillips, University of Western Sydney 2008
  24. ^ "Art Prize Judge Resigns in Disgust" Erik Jensen, Louise Schwartzkoff, Richard Jinman, Sydney Morning Herald Aug, 6 2008