Brazilian artist Gil Vicente has caused outrage with a series of drawings depicting himself assassinating nine world leaders.
The charcoal drawings became a focus of controversy when they went on display at the opening of the Sao Paulo Art Biennial on Saturday.
The former US President George W Bush is shown kneeling on the ground with his wrists bound behind him as Vicente pushes a pistol into his temple.
Queen Elizabeth faces the onlooker with her hands clasped before her, apparently unaware that the artist is behind her pointing a gun at her back.
Pope Benedict XVI confronts the assassin with his hands raised, while the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Solva is trussed like a joint of meat with a butcher’s knife at his throat.
Other world leaders depicted in the violent series include the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The series, called Inimigos (Enemies), is meant to highlight alleged crimes for which the leaders have been directly or indirectly responsible by imagining that they are being made to pay the price.
The Archdiocese of Sao Paulo has called on Brazil’s Public Ministry to intervene remove the exhibits.
In a statement the archdiocese expressed “amazement, disgust and unease” at the exhibition which features drawings that “implicitly approve of violence.”
“There is no principal or school teacher with common sense who would display these drawings in their classrooms, as they would be considered uncivilized,” the statement continued.
“In a society already marked by conflict and suffering because of so much violence, it is dubious that in the name of art, an exhibit is displayed that suggests the expression of hatred against those perceived to be one’s enemies.”
It called the exhibit an “unfortunate show of disrespect for human dignity and a threat to the peace of social life. Violence, whether real or simply suggested, creates more violence,” the archdiocese stressed.
But the organisers of the Biennial defended Vicente’s right to exhibit his work. They said in a statement: "A fundamental quality of our institution is curatorial independence and freedom of expression. The works exhibited to do not reflect the opinion of the curators nor of the Biennial Foundation."
The works, hanging in a prominent position in the Biennial exhibition in a hall in Sao Paulo's main Ibirapuera Park, are valued collectively at $260,000 (€193,000). They are not available individually.