Kamran Jebreili / AP
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – One of the most talked about attractions at the ongoing World Expo in Dubai is a towering statue made of marble dust that raises eyebrows just like the original over 500 years ago.
At the Italian pavilion, a 3D replica of Michelangelo’s David stands proudly, his gaze intense and provocative. For most visitors, however, the Head of David is all they will see when visiting the pavilion. Only VIPs with special access will be able to admire the statue from head to toe while on display for the next six months at Expo 2020 Dubai.
The original David is naked and some visitors see the limited view offered as a form of censorship. Others say the way David is presented at the Expo is a form of artistic expression.
“It is no coincidence that David is not seen from the bottom up, as usual, but he greets people by looking them in the face,” said David Rampello, artistic director of the Italian pavilion.
An art historian in Rome said he chooses who can see the statue in its entirety and who cannot create a hierarchy.
“What the rich, the great and the good can see and what ordinary people can see shouldn’t be two different things,” said Professor Paul Gwynne, who teaches Medieval and Renaissance studies at the University. American from Rome.
It took 40 hours of digital scanning for a team of Italian experts to create the replica, made with what organizers describe as one of the largest 3D printers in the world. The artists used filaments of recycled plastic, then a mixture of resins and marble dust to create it.
Housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence since 1873, the original David still catches the eye of spectators today. Michelangelo’s mastery and passion for human anatomy, from the contracted muscles of David’s abdomen to the flexing of his muscles in his right thigh, make the piece unforgettable for those viewing the imposing artwork. .
In Dubai, these details get lost. David stands in the center of a narrow octagonal well, presented from his chest upwards and surrounded by replicas of Roman columns. Visitors to the public space can see parts of David’s torso if they lean over a railing.
The rest of her body is inside a light partition on the separate floor. Her genitals and buttocks are between the floors, although fully visible if a bystander stands near the partition and looks up.
This position aroused the ire of a reporter from La Repubblica writing about the opening of the Expo.
“Why can’t you see the whole body of the biblical hero, because all you see is the head, the magnetic eyes that stare at you in silence? And where is the rest?” read an article in the daily, referring at one point to the “beheading” of David.
David’s nudity is part of a centuries-old debate about the art of pushing the boundaries and the rules of censorship. In the 1500s, metal fig leaves covered the genitals of statues like David when the Roman Catholic Church viewed nudity as immodest and obscene.
Nudity even clashes with the mores of the modern era. Controversy erupted in 2016 when officials erected wooden panels to protect naked statues in Rome’s Capitoline Museums during a visit by then-Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. This prompted some politicians to accuse the government of giving in to “cultural submission”, although Rouhani himself thanked Italians as “very hospitable people” when asked about the gesture.
Across the UAE, a few nude works of art can be seen at Louvre Abu Dhabi, although the museum largely caters to more conservative pieces.
Expo visitor Calli Schmitz from Germany said she didn’t think the way the replica was presented at the Expo did it justice.
“I think it wasn’t as exposed as it should have been,” she said. “I think because of the gold everywhere, people didn’t really realize it was the statue of David.”
Italian visitor Ricardo Mantarano offered another take.
“It’s a different way of approaching the same sculpture and putting it in a different perspective,” he said.
Dinara Aksyanova, a 31-year-old visitor from Moscow, was not so forgiving, however.
“Why was it only half? It makes no sense,” she said. “The most interesting part is below.”