Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.
Strange goings on in St Petersburg, where a 5 metre-high replica of Michelangelo’s David on show in the city centre has sparked outrage among locals. According to the BBC, the children’s rights ombudsman received a letter from a local woman when the statue was unveiled last month, venting fury at poor old David’s scandalous appearance.
‘How could you put this bloke without any trousers on in the centre of St Petersburg, next to a school and a church?’, the letter apparently demanded. ‘This giant spoils the city’s historic appearance and warps children’s souls.’ Officials tried to reason with the outraged citizen, but to no avail. ‘Children are around, looking at this giant nude man. Is that normal?’
Though the question may seem like a bit of a non-starter (the city’s Hermitage Museum, for one thing, is packed with nudes) the powers that be have bowed to the resident’s prudish demands. On 16–23 August, St Petersburg residents will be invited to vote on whether or not the offending statue should be reclothed in more modest attire, with a choice of several outfits. According to a spokesman for ‘Michelangelo: World Creation’, the exhibition in which the statue features, ‘Next, we will make a costume for the [winning idea] and put him in a solemn ceremony on 30 August. Or we will not do anything.’
Rakewell is overcome with déjà vu: in ‘Itchy & Scratchy & Marge’, an episode of The Simpsons broadcast in 1990, David goes on a coast-to-coast tour of the United States, starting in the eponymous family’s hometown of Springfield. Uproar ensues, and local residents force museum authorities to cover up David’s lower half with a pair of blue jeans. ‘Is it a masterpiece or just some guy with his pants down?’ asks news presenter Kent Brockman.
Who knew that, 26 years later, a city would earnestly be asking itself the same question. Far be it for Rakewell to purloin a catchphrase, but on behalf of the citizens of St Petersburg – D’oh!