A marble sculpture of a cut-off hand with the middle finger stuck up has gone on display in front of the Milan Stock Exchange, provoking a row between politicians and intellectuals.
The 36ft (11m) high statue, called L.O.V.E. and unveiled for the first time in Milan, is part of a retrospective dedicated to the Italian contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan, whose provocative works include a sculpture of Pope John Paul being hit by a meteorite.
“Cattelan’s works call our times into question, offering themselves as a mirror, however cracked, of our present,” said Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, Milan’s commissioner for culture.
Cattelan drew protests in Milan in 2004 with his installation of three baby puppets hung on the branch of an old tree. A protester sawed off the branch and the work was eventually removed.
The finger sculpture, which mocks a Nazi gesture, is part of a retrospective of Cattelan’s works entitled Against Ideologies promoted by the city of Milan, which says it is the third-largest market for contemporary art after New York and London.
The installation has fuelled criticism among local politicians and intellectuals over the rights and wrongs of showing a provocative work in a public space, like the Bourse square.
Asked about the meaning of the work, Cattelan said his work was more an act of love than a comment on the financial world.
“It is mainly about imagination,” he said. The sculpture will remain on display until Oct. 3.