Serrano was born in 1950 in New York. He attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School in 1967, where he studied painting and sculpture.
Serrano’s name, along with Robert Mappletorpe’s, was at the crossroads of the 1989 Cultural Wars when Serrano’s photograph, Piss Christ, became the subject of a national debate on freedom of artistic expression and the public funding of controversial art. Piss Christ, an ethereal image of a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine, remains the artist’s most controversial and misunderstood work.
Serrano’s work continues to explore the controversial subjects. The artist created The Morgue (1995), an investigation of death, The Klan (1990), a series of portraits of the Ku Klux Klan members, Nomads (1990), portraits of the New York homeless, and America (2001–2003), a panorama of American society in a post-September 11 era.
Serrano is an internationally acclaimed American artist whose work has been shown in major institutions in the United States and abroad. His photographs are in numerous public collections and museums including The Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMa and a National Art Collection of France.