Milan and the Changing Role of Public Art: Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about Milan’s Duomo as a gorgeous example of historic public art; a beautiful building and also a clear indicator of political prowess, engineering capability, and religious authority.

But our times are changing.  We no longer want to be told how to live, or held up to unachievable benchmarks.  We want to design our own futures.

We also see problems in our world: we’re becoming increasingly more connected and aware of each other; but, at the same time, we’re building stronger walls between countries.  Economic disparity is increasing.  And themes such as inclusiveness and uncensored political commentary are pervading the art world.

Artists push us to question the status quo, and to move our collective thinking.   Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Milan’s Piazza Affari, the seat of the Italian Stock Exchange.

8 years ago sculptor Maurizio Cattelan art-bombed the site with a giant marble-looking hand, making an obvious, in-your-face gesture to the bankers in the area.  It’s pertinent to note that this was done two years after the financial meltdown of 2008.

Milan's Flipped Bird
Milan’s L.O.V.E (in English: Freedom, Hate, Vengeance, Eternity) sends a clear message to the financial district.


I’m not sure what the traders think of this, but the city seems to have embraced it – after all it hasn’t been taken down!

I sat for a while in the piazza and pondered the work.   Why are the other fingers cut off?  Why was so much care taken to make it look like part of the original building design?  And whose hand is it (ours, or our ancestors’?).


As I write this, our local Public Art Advisory Board (myself included) are working to finalized our Public Art Master Plan for Halton Hills, Ontario, to take to Council for approval.  We went back and forth for a while nailing down adjectives to describe our future public art: should it be Joyful?  Provocative?  Engaging?  Beautiful?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and also what public art you’ve come across that really spoke to you!



Related Posts

  1. Milan and the Changing Role of Public Art: Part 1
  2. Art Booms in Music City!



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