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Sunday, October 3, 1999 Published at 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK

World: Americas

In pictures: New York passes judgement

The controversial British art exhibition Sensation has pitted outspoken New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani against the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and art lovers against offended religious and animal rights activists. But what is all the fuss about? On Saturday, New Yorkers got the chance to see for themselves?

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"Great work by great artists" says artist Damien Hirst who has several examples of animals pickled in formaldehyde on show.

"Beautiful ... but a lot that I wouldn't hang in my living room," according to one of more than 9,000 visitors on the first day of the exhibition.

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One viewer felt "slightly queasy" after viewing objects like Self, a self-portrait by Marc Quinn made entirely from his own frozen blood.

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Alternative takes on religious icons are a recurrent feature: Ron Mueck's silicon and acrylic sculpture "Angel".

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Outside, protesters backed Mayor Giuliani's assessment of the exhibition as "Catholic-bashing" and brandished more traditional religious representations.

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About 200 supporters of the Catholic League prayed and sang hymns in protest - President William Donahue handed out "vomit bags" to people queueing to get in.

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At the centre of it all The Holy Virgin Mary complete with its splash of elephant dung, now protected by a plastic screen and a police guard. Several people said they would never have heard of the show without the publicity whipped up by Mayor Giuliani's condemnation of the painting.

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