Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Art or censorship? Expo shows just top of famed David statue

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — One of the most talked-about attractions at the ongoing world’s fair in Dubai is a giant statue made of marble dust that is raising eyebrows like it originally did more than 500 years ago.

In the Italian pavilion, a 3D replica of Michelangelo’s David stands tall, his gaze sharp and defiant. For most visitors, however, David’s head is all they will see when they visit the pavilion. Only VIPs with special access will be able to see the statue from head to toe during the display for the next six months at Expo 2020 in Dubai.

The original David is naked and some visitors view the limited scene offered as censorship. Others say that the way David is displayed at the Expo is a form of artistic expression.

“It is no coincidence that David is not looked down upon, as is normally the case, but it welcomes people to look them in the face,” said David Rampelo, director of art at the Italian Pavilion.

An art historian in Rome said who could see the statue as a whole and who could not form a hierarchy.

“What the rich, great and good people can see and what ordinary people can see should not be two different things,” said Professor Paul Gwynn, who teaches medieval and Renaissance studies at the American University of Rome.

It took a team of Italian experts 40 hours of digital scanning to create the replica, which the organizers describe as one of the largest 3D printers in the world. The artists used filaments from recycled plastic materials, then a mixture of resins and marble dust, to make it.

In his home in Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia from 1873, the original David continues to gasp from audiences to this day. Michelangelo’s mastery and his passion for human anatomy, from the contractile muscles of David’s abdominal muscles to the flexion of his right thigh muscles, make this piece unforgettable for those viewing the vast work of art.

In Dubai, those details get lost. David stands in the center of a narrow octagonal shaft, presented above his chest and surrounded by replicas of Roman columns. Visitors to the public area can see parts of David’s torso if they lean on the railing.

The rest of his body sits inside a clear partition on a separate floor. Her genitals and buttocks find themselves between the floors, though fully visible if an onlooker stands near the partition and rises up.

That situation attracted the wrath of a La Repubblica reporter writing at the opening of the expo..

“Why can’t you see the whole body of the biblical hero, because you only see the head, the magnetic eyes staring silently at you? And where is the rest?” An article read in the daily, at one point referring to David’s “beheading”.

David’s nudity has been part of a centuries-old debate about the limits of art and the rules of censorship. In the 1500s, metal fig leaves covered the genitals of statues such as David, when the Roman Catholic Church considered nudity immoral and obscene.

Nudity also clashes with customs in the modern era. The controversy began in 2016 when officials erected wooden panels to shield nude statues at Rome’s Capitoline museums during a visit by Iran’s then-president Hassan Rouhani. This prompted some politicians to accuse the government of “cultural subjugation”. Although Rouhani himself thanked the Italians for “ Very hospitable people” when asked about the gesture.

In the wider United Arab Emirates, some nude artifacts can be seen at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, However the museum largely caters to more conservative pieces.

Expo visitor Kelly Schmitz from Germany said she didn’t think the way the replica was displayed at the expo did it so much justice.

“I think it’s not exposed as much as it should have been,” she said. “I think because of the gold everywhere, people didn’t really realize it was a statue of David.”

Italian visitor Riccardo Mantarano offered another take.

“It’s a different way of approaching the same sculpture and putting it in another perspective,” he said.

However, Dinara Akshyanova, a 31-year-old visitor from Moscow, was not so forgiving.

“Why was it only halfway? It doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “The most interesting part is at the bottom.”


Follow Malakharb on Twitter at www.twitter.com/malakharb.


Nation World News Desk
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