BANGKOK — A controversial painting depicting Buddha as a Japanese superhero was auctioned off for 600,000 baht on Thursday, despite legal threats from a group of Buddhist fanatics.
Pakorn Porncheewarakun, an art collector who sold one of the four paintings in the “Ultraman Buddha” collection, announced on Facebook that he will give 100,000 baht of the proceeds to the student artist in the form of a scholarship. The rest will go to a hospital in Nakhon Ratchasima, the province where the student resides.
Pakorn refused to name the buyer. He claims that he and his friends bought the paintings from the artist for 4,500 baht each.
He rejected demands to recall the paintings for destruction.
“I am declaring my right as the owner. I will never return this art piece for destruction,” read Pakorn’s post on Wednesday. “My intention is to return it to Korat in the form of public benefits, rather than let it to be burned, which would be nonsense.”
He hopes that the donation to the hospital will fulfil the artist’s intention to represent Buddha as a hero.
“She wanted to represent Buddha as a hero who eases the burdens of people’s minds, so I will reinterpret him as a hero who also relieves people’s illnesses,” Pakorn said.
Nakhonratchasima Rajabhat University previously banned the paintings from being sold, citing the “possibility of misinterpretations when they spread overseas.” The institution has yet to comment on the auction as of press time.
On Wednesday, a group of Buddhists called “Buddhist Power of the Land” filed a complaint to the Crime Suppression Division demanding the prosecution of the student and four supporters, including famed artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, on allegations they insulted Buddhism.
Charoon Wannakasikanont, the group’s leader, said the paintings violate the constitution and criminal law, which require the state to protect and uphold Buddhism.
Under the criminal code, anyone who insults an object or place of worship can be imprisoned for up to seven years or fined up to 40,000 baht.