In a modern Heaven, the angels are Elvis Presley, Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, and the old vision of a peaceful afterlife has given way to desire fulfilled on Earth.
Such is the vision of "Heaven," an art show that opened recently at the Tate Gallery.
Visitors to the gallery, located in a converted Victorian rum-barrel warehouse at Albert Dock, are welcomed by a 15-foot fiberglass statue of the risen Christ with outstretched arms, painted white with a gold cloak, standing on a floating pontoon.
Inside the gallery is a carved life-size figure of Diana, painted in the traditional robes of the Virgin Mary.
Her image is one of an array of sculptures, paintings, photographs and digital and video images by 35 international artists, demonstrating the concept that at the end of the second millennium, religious and spiritual experience has moved from traditional sacred places.
The show claims that paradise for many people is now a tropical beach, a sports stadium or a shopping mall. A pilgrimage can be a homage to Elvis in Graceland. The stars of fashion catwalks, pop concerts and the movies are idolized and worshiped as saints and angels once were.
"Human beings need a faith because they are inherently spiritual but they are now influenced more by pop stars and the beautiful and talented than by traditional religion," said Doreet LeVitte Harten, who devised the show. An Israeli, she lives in Germany and is married to a German Protestant.
"All communities have idols or symbols, and Elvis Presley and Princess Diana have godlike qualities for such people," she said.
Lord Alton, professor of citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University, said that many people would find the exhibition "deeply offensive," but Liverpool's Anglican and Catholic bishops took it in stride.
Anglican Bishop James Jones said he discussed the contents with the organizers and felt it was a challenge to Christians to communicate their faith with "great imagination and compassion."
"It reflects our culture and shows the huge gap that exists between traditional beliefs and the spirit of a new age. Like it or not, the church has to face up to the fact that although people are spiritual, many do not find the church fulfills their hopes," Jones said.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Patrick Kelly said that over 2,000 years the Virgin Mary was expressed in many forms of art, not one of which would claim to tell the whole story.
"Comparisons might be made between the story of Mary and the story of anyone else, for example Princess Diana, and that would determine the authenticity of linking these stories through an art form," Kelly said.
The Diana figure was carved from limewood by Konrad Piazza in Northern Italy at the Demetz studio, which produces religious objects. It also made the Christ figure.
Luigi Baggi, the studio's commercial representative, said: "There was some hesitation at first with Diana when we got the commission, but there was no problem with it as she was someone who can be venerated."
The exhibit was first shown in July at the Duesseldorf Kunsthalle in Germany, and the curator there, Marie Luise Syring, said: "We had 45,000 visitors, four times the usual number for a contemporary art show, with lots of teenagers. It was even reported favorably in church papers, and religious communities expressed delight with it."