Jani Leinonen at the Museu de l’Art Prohibit

29 Jan 2024 | News

The Finnish artist is reunited with his most controversial work and reaffirms his critical commitment to consumer society

Jani Leinonen (Hyvinkää, 1978) is a Finnish artist who questions the consumerist habits of capitalism through his work. One of his most controversial pieces, which he has even received death threats for, is McJesus.

This artwork, which can now be seen in Museu de l’Art Prohibit, depicts a life-size and crucified replica of the famous clown character from McDonald’s, which became the brand’s official mascot for many years. In 2019, the piece was part of a group exhibition Sacred Goods at the Haifa Museum of Art. The artists showing at the exhibition used religious symbols to criticise the invasion of consumer culture and also to condemn how religions made use of consumer values.

Of the artworks exhibited, Leinonen’s piece was particularly criticised by the Christian community in Haifa, which called it irresponsible and provocative.

There were several demonstrations demanding its removal, with the protest on 11 January 2019 ending in clashes with the police and three people injured. The museum’s management consistently defended the freedom of expression but despite its efforts, Haifa City Council ordered the removal of the artwork.

Paradoxically, Jani Leinonen also demanded the removal of McJesus. When he heard about the protests, he was surprised that the work was even on display. He had asked not to participate in the exhibition because he supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the State of Israel and he did not want any of his work to be shown in the country.

Loyal to a very characteristic pop style, Leinonen remains a strong critic of consumer society. He was delighted to be reunited with McJesus and welcomed the opening of the Museu de l’Art Prohibit, praising the museum’s “sincere nature and courageous message”.