Why is Michelangelo's David So Controversial?
Michelangelo successfully completed his famous sculpture of David in 1501, which was carved for Duomo, a cathedral in the city of Florence as a long-running project to add statues of biblical and mythological figures on the roofline. Unfortunately, Florentine officials concluded that the statue of David was heavy to be placed in its intended location. As a result of this, a committee of artists including Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci held a meeting and decided that the statue should be moored at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio. Many people were engaged in the taxing job of pushing the colossal statue on a cart through the city from Michelangelo’s studio to the town hall.
The piece was commissioned when the Republic of Florence was attempting to re-establish itself after the ongoing rule of Medici and of Christian reformer, Girolamo Savonarola. They stated that Goliath was the symbol of power in Florence and the civilians who agreed with Medici threw stones at the sculpture. Leonardo da Vinci was also disappointed with the nudity of the sculpture which continues to be an integral part of the statue and suggested that his genitals be covered with a loin cloth.
David’s nudity has been a subject of debate and censorship since it appeared in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria in 1504. This six metre tall statue was replicated at the Dubai Expo and its presentation has stirred several controversies pertaining to Artistic Expression and censorship.The purpose of this exhibition was to showcase examples of artistic innovation and culture from all around the world in an attempt to attract more tourism and revenue.
The imposing stance of the original statue is an element which makes it an unforgettable artistic experience for many. The version that was placed at Dubai Expo was a 17 foot replica and was brushed with marble dust to create a similar aesthetic as the original sculpture. The predominant area of disappointment arose when people saw the replica placed within a cylindrical glass chamber which hinders the audience from viewing the majority of the statue. The imposing stance of the original statue is an element which makes it an unforgettable artistic experience for many. This valuable component is lost at the Dubai Expo where his genitals and buttocks are hidden between floors and is only visible to VIPs with special access. Choosing who can view the statue wholly and cannot, creates a sense of hierarchy among the rich and the middle classes and the censorship was an unprecedented, intolerable humiliation to the culture and art of Italian history. Dubai used a form of prudence to preserve the sensitivity of a nation that is laid on differing religious principles. Moreover, art critic Vittorio Sgarbi described this act of censorship as grotesque, ridiculous and adhering to Emrati culture.
However, every controversy has two paradoxical perspectives and while this act of unsolicited censorship was an attack on Italian cultural heritage, it is important to consider the religious like-mindedness of the civilians residing in the United Arab Emirates and the turbulent international politics that the country attracts. The exhibition was hosted to uphold the symbol of the country and provide a new experience to the audience giving them a different and more introspective approach. In fact Rampello the director of the Dubai Expo concluded that exhibiting the statue was a serious mistake owing to the inevitability of a controversy and leaving dirt on David.