Monday, July 22, 2013


The Piazza, Pietrasanta

Having enjoyed over a week of the beautiful Pietrasanta Piazza being free of obstructions, I took a seat in my favourite bar, looked up and found that a  gigantic 16 foot bronze statue was obscuring my view of  Sant' Agostino. I breathed a sigh of resignation and thought “What now?”

It turned out to be a monumental sculpture of the moment when French footballer Zidane head-butted an Italian opponent because he was taunting him. The sculptor is Adel Abdessemed,  a conceptual artist who lives and works in Paris.

Samson Slaying a Philistine

 The subject of violence is certainly not new in art.

There is a large marble sculpture by Giambologna (John from Bologna) called Samson Slaying a Philistine. Samson apparently was taunted by the  philistines so he set about slaying a few thousand of them with an ass's jawbone.

It was commissioned in about 1562, by Francesco de Medici for a fountain in Florence, and later it was gifted  to Spain. Then in 1623 it was given to the  Prince of Wales, later to become King Charles I, while he was in Spain negotiating a marriage contract, and it soon became the most famous Italian sculpture in England and is now  the centre piece of the sculpture collection in the V&A Museum in London.

The sculpture is a perfect example of 3 dimensional form that offers no front and back views, but continually shifting  lines and forms that change as you circle it. View it as many times as you like - it will always surprise you.

 I could bore you for ages talking about the sculptural merits of the Samson against the lack of them in the Zidane, but I think the juxtaposition of the photos above says it all. The control of the sculptural language in the Giambolgna is in the sphere of genius while it's questionable that there is even a smattering of mediocre talent in the Abdessemed sculpture.

Adel Abdessemed
The Zidane sculpture  is conceptual art, it is not interested in the traditional lanquage of sculpture, but the question arises " why is it so large, in traditional bronze and in an historic Italian Piazza?"

Another work by  Adel Abdessemed
It might seem unfair to compare the Zidane work with a masterpiece from the Renaissance, like comparing a tv script for a soap opera with a Shakespeare play. One is pop culture; one is high art and everyone can choose what they want to engage with.  I have no objection to people enjoying Adel  Abdessemed 's work in a gallery,  I can choose not to go,  but this monument to ego is large, impossible not to see and blocking my view of Sant' Agostino.

Where is the Samson and his  jaw bone today, when you need him?

1 comment:

  1. There's a whole issue around the subject of public art too, which you hint at in the last paragraph! We can't avoid it. But there was a lot of bad public art around in the 19th century too - it was all about ego rather than art. Good rant!!