'Disgusting' sculpture stays on show in Milan

By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

image captionThe statue seems to be sending a message to the Milan stock market

Milan city council has extended the display of a controversial new sculpture by Italy's most famous living artist, Maurizio Cattelan.

The sculpture - officially titled L.O.V.E. but popularly known as The Middle Finger - will now remain in the Piazza d'Affari outside the Milan stock exchange until the end of a retrospective of Cattelan's work in the city on 24 October.

Now admirers of the artist's work are pressing for the piazza to become its permanent home.

But opinions are sharply divided.


Cattelan's latest creation is a huge hand, beautifully sculpted from Carrara marble - the same material used by Michelangelo and Bernini.

But its middle finger is extended skywards in a very un-Renaissance-like gesture of contempt. That - given its position here just a stone's throw from the stock exchange - has invited discussion of a possible anti-capitalist message, though the artist himself has denied any such intention.

image captionA previous work depicted Pope John Paul II struck by a meteorite

Canvassing opinion among visitors to Milan, many feel the sculpture deserves a permanent place in the city that's also home to Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

"It's impressive. I say keep it - it's fantastic," one visitor tells me.

"This is a very brave thing to do - you can't see this everywhere. Sculptures have a certain beauty. This one has as well, but it also has a very strong provocative message," says another.

Not everyone shares that enthusiasm. The sculpture has also been described as "disgusting" - and "an insult to centuries of Italian art".

Among those who do want to keep it in Milan is the chairman of the city's culture committee, Massimiliano Finazzer Flory.

He would like it to stay put until the end of next year, when it could move to a permanent home in Milan's new museum of modern art.

That, of course, raises the question of who would pay.

Maurizio Cattelan doesn't come cheap: his best-known work, featuring the late Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite, fetched a cool $3m (£1.9m) the last time it came under the auctioneer's hammer.

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