Italy gives the middle finger to the US. A recent addition to the White House lawn in the form of a sculpture presented to the US by Italy is causing quite a stir. “This is a gift made to the American people,” said the mayor of Milan. “We are depriving one of our most beautiful squares of a memorable piece of art,” he explained “and offering the finger as a gesture of friendship, change, and understanding. It is a gesture of L.O.V.E.”
The finger in question is a sculptural work of art by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan entitled L.O.V.E., an acronym that stands for libertà, odio, vendetta, eternità (freedom, hate, revenge, eternity). Unveiled in Piazza Affari in Milan on September 27, 2010 in front of the Milan Stock Exchange, the Carrara marble sculpture with a middle finger stuck in the air and the other digits cut off has been fascinating Italian and international audiences ever since.
“It is an honor for us,” said the former Milan’s Cultural Affairs Counselor. “To be gifting this much-loved sculpture by one of our most esteemed and critically acclaimed contemporary artists to the White House is an act of friendship. We couldn’t refuse when the curator Lanfranco Aceti asked for it as part of his curatorial project at the White House entitled The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Cards.”
Aceti, a born Italian, was appointed as the White House Contemporary Art Curator or #COTUS (Curator of the United States), and brokered the negotiations between the Italian and US governments, as well as the respective homes of the sculpture, Milan and the White House.
“I am aware that this sculpture is somewhat out of the ordinary for American audiences used to less controversial public artworks,” said the curator “but these are times that require bold statements and since this work of art was part of Cattelan’s retrospective, Against Ideologies, it is my belief that it is relevant to the current socio-political climate and the controversial stances of the Trump Administration.”
Aceti explained that The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Cards is a curatorial and artistic project that will place a new artwork on the North Lawn of the White House every forty-nine days which will feature a total of forty-nine separate but related pieces of art. This curatorial and artistic operation is inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column and the and the First Forty-Nine Stories.
“It will be interesting to try to decipher who is giving the middle finger to whom because of the complexity of the current socio-economic and political context of the United States and the world. In fact, at the White House,” COTUS said “the finger, similar to its positioning in Milan, is not facing the institution that it appears to criticize. The finger seems to be directed from the White House to the viewing public, the press, and other institutions in Washington DC and around the world. Is the finger a sign of the renewed autonomy and boldness of Trump’s presidency? Is it a form of criticism of the various forces conspiring against American society’s desire to return to its greatness? Or is ‘COTUS’ actually offering the finger as a sign of protest to both the government and the public for their lack of support for the arts, symbolizing his opposition to the current funding cuts?”
Supported by the Museum of Contemporary Cuts, which created the COTUS position and appointed Lanfranco Aceti as curator, The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Cards will provide insight into the complexities of existential post-truths, ethical conflicts, truthful hyperboles, parallel realities, fake news, and alternative facts.