Michelangelo’s David censored to avoid outrage
A 3D printed replica of Michelangelo’s David at the Dubai Expo has been mired in controversy after organizers blocked views of his butt and manhood to respect Muslim culture.
According to Italian daily La Repubblica, Expo staff wondered how they could display the 17-foot-high replica of the Renaissance masterpiece without offending conservative Muslims. They eventually decided to place the statue in an octagonal glass gallery spanning two floors, one level with the warrior’s muscular legs and another with his eyes.
A large slab of stone placed between the two floors means that no visitor is embarrassed to look directly at the statue’s penis, while wide ledges on the top floor – open to public visitors – make it impossible to bend down and gaze down.
The naked pubic area can only be seen by standing by the glass and looking up from the lower floor, which is only open to authorities and officials, according to Italian media. Public nudity is prohibited in the United Arab Emirates.
The country hopes the six-month Expo event will boost investment and help its tourism industry recover from the Covid pandemic.
“We even thought about putting underwear on the statue, or changing it completely, but it was too late,” a source who worked on the project told La Repubblica. “We realized too late that it was a mistake to bring a statue of a naked man to the Emirates.”
Originally carved by Michelangelo in 1504, the work depicts David tense and ready for battle after deciding to fight Goliath.
It was originally installed in Piazza della Signoria in Florence and has become a symbol of the Florentine Republic. In 1873, the statue was transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence to protect it from wind and rain.
It remains one of Florence’s most popular tourist attractions, where sticky aprons, postcards and knick-knacks featuring David’s exposed genitals are sold on almost every street corner. A tear-off plaster fig leaf was made for a copy at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, apparently to spare Queen Victoria from blushing when she saw it.
Frankish Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi called the Italian pavilion’s decision “grotesque and ridiculous”. “This is a biblical theme, not a pagan theme, so canceling a game of Michelangelo’s David at the Italian pavilion at Expo Dubai only bowed to their religion and culture.” Mr Sgarbi told the Adnkronos news agency.
Davide Rampello, artistic director of the pavilion, released a statement on Saturday denying any government censorship and defending the exhibition. He said it was a unique conceptual approach in which David’s sculpture greets visitors with his gaze directly at eye level.
“It’s a different perspective, which is new, introspective and moving,” said Mr. Rampello.
The exact replica of Michelangelo’s David was produced from laser scans of the sculpture and then produced from the largest 3D printers in the world. He was supposed to represent Italy’s manufacturing expertise at the fair.
While Expo pavilion organizers dismiss criticism as a storm in a teacup, critics say the decision to cover the David is part of a larger clash between Western and Middle Eastern culture.
The Telegraph, London
See also: Australia unveils World Expo pavilion, but will anyone see it?
See also: Once the borders open, this is the first country I will visit