Sculpture in the Piazza: new statue of Pope John unveiled in Rome provokes outrage… a controversy Made in Italy.

bronze statue of Pope John
A new 5-meter (16+ feet) tall bronze statue of Pope John unveiled in the Piazza in front of Rome’s busy train station is causing some controversy. The modernist sculpture depicts a towering and somewhat abstracted Pope opening his cape, revealing a cavity – supposedly welcoming the faithful. We’ll avoid joining the fray with an in-depth assessment of its artistic merits but we have to say that we generally find the work bold, evocative, dream-like, and intriguing and that the “furore” playing out in the comment sections of the various local dailies – and even reported in Salon.com shows that sculpture – and art – still manage to provoke outrage, and stimulate discussion.
Artist Oliviero Rainaldi hasn’t commented on the matter and neither the Fondazione that donated the work to the city, but the Mayor, after having initially praised the work has most recently invoked an ancient proverb “vox populi, vox dei” (voice of the people, voice of God) and said that he will consider all options, including the removal of the statue if the people so wish. And so far the voice of the people is stacking 90% against the statue, some passers by berate it because they do not recognize a likeness of their beloved Pope, most hurl the standard invectives used to decry works of art that do not fit into neat categories, one commenter says “it looks like Young Frankenstein” one passing commuter “…like Mussolini” …one other, expresses fear, and yet another mentions that she is afraid that the homeless that mill about the station will find … permanent shelter in the cavity, or fill it with empty beer bottles. The Piazza del Duomo in Pietrasanta has 30-foot-tall shiny black Russian resin sculptures of dinosaur babies (see the post below) and hardly an eyebrow is raised while in Rome, a city that has given new meaning, … over the centuries, to the phrase “seen it all” is up in arms. Not about the Italian “crisi” or political scene, or even economic scandals, but over a piece of public sculpture.

Another sculpture ignites a fire-storm of public condemnation, another
artist faces the angry mob, … another controversy … Made in Italy.

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