Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's the Veins, Not the Finger

The veins aren't right. While most visitors to Milan talk about the propriety of Maurizio Cattelan's white marble sculpture of a huge hand with an upward pointing middle finger, it's the veins that are troubling. Right now, the controversial work of art sits in the Piazza d' Affairi, just outside of the Milan Stock exchange. The connotation of irreverence somehow seems to fit a bourse.

The object of concern has an official name, L.O.V.E. The street name is "The Middle Finger". Some think the "bird" depiction should find a permanent home in Milan, others think not. The latter critics opine that the vulgarity of Cattelan's piece impugns all of Italian art. The artist's most famous work, La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) in which Pope John Paul II is hit by a meteorite

is no less troubling. Nonetheless, it sold for $3M. Mmm, a pope hit by a meteorite. You have to wonder what goes on in Mr. Cattelan's mind.

Maurizio celebrated his 50th birthday on September 21. Born in Padova, he's a satirist, of the first order. Other seemingly outrageous experiments have included convincing Emmanuel Perrotin to spend a month dressed as a pink phallus, erecting a full sized Hollywood sign over a rubbish dump in Palermo and his Par Peur de l'Amour. (Not Afraid of Love) This creation of an elephant in a Ku Klux Klan uniform sold for $2.7M.

But its the protruding, full veins on the back of the hand of The Middle Finger which make the sculpture so dramatic. Sure, the finger is what it is, but in Italy hand gestures, facial grimaces and all sorts of other symbolic hippity hop are de rigueur. The veins, though, they depict passion, pressure, anger, intensity and heat. Try it, hold your hand out and extend your middle finger. NO VEINS, the blood drains out of these passive conduits with the extension of the arm and the flexion of the wrist. Its the unphysiologic sight of those veins, which gives L.O.V.E. an unsettling intensity. The fact that the veins are sooo filled with blood, hot blood, gives the sculpture its character. Forget the finger, it's the veins.

So it goes...

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