A towering marble statue, made from marble dust, is one of the most talked-about attractions at the Dubai World’s Fair. It’s raising eyebrows as much as the original more than 500 years ago.
A 3D model of Michelangelo’s David stands tall at Italy’s pavilion. His gaze is intense and determined. Visitors will only see David’s head as they tour the pavilion. Only VIPs will have the opportunity to see the statue from head-to-toe at Expo 2020 in Dubai.
Visitors see the restricted view as a form censorship. The original David is nude. Others believe that the Expo’s display of David is an artistic expression.
David Rampello, director of art at The Italian Pavilion, stated, “It’s no coincidence that David doesn’t appear from the bottom up to the top as it normally is,”
A Rome art historian said that choosing who can see the statue in its entirety and who cannot creates hierarchy.
Professor Paul Gwynne, who teaches medieval-renaissance studies at American University of Rome, said that “what the rich, the great, and the poor can see should not be two different things.”
The replica was created by a team consisting of 40 hours of digital scanning. It was made using what organizers call the largest 3D printer in the world. The filaments were made from recycled plastic material and then mixed resins with marble dust.
The original David still draws a lot of attention today at its Florence Galleria dell’Accademia home, where it has been since 1873. The piece is a masterpiece of Michelangelo’s skill and passion for anatomy. This includes the contract muscles in David’s abdomen and the flexing his right thigh muscles.
These details are lost in Dubai. David is positioned in the middle of an octagonal shaft that runs from his chest upwards. It is surrounded by replicas Roman columns. If visitors lean over the railing, they can see part of David’s torso.
The remainder of his body is contained within a separate partition. The floors are able to see his genitals, buttocks, if someone stands close enough to the partition and looks up.
This position angered a La Repubblica reporter who was covering Expo’s opening.
“Why can’t I see the entire body of the Biblical hero? Because you only see the head and the magnetic eyes staring silently at me?” The daily newspaper article referred to David’s “beheading” in one section.
David’s nudity is part of a centuries-old debate over art pushing boundaries and rules of censorship. When nudity was deemed immodest by the Roman Catholic Church, in the 1500s metal fig leaves were used to cover the genitals statues such as David.
Even modern times have more nudity than before. In 2016, controversy erupted when officials set up wooden panels to protect the nude statues in Rome’s Capitoline Museums from Hassan Rouhani’s visit. Some politicians accused the government of “cultural submission”, but Rouhani, himself, thanked the Italians for being “very hospitable” when asked about it.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi has a few nude artifacts, but the majority of the museum is dedicated to more conservative pieces.
Calli Schmitz, an Expo visitor from Germany, said that she didn’t believe the Expo replica did the Expo justice.
She said that she believed it wasn’t as visible as it should have been. “I believe that people didn’t realize it was the David statue because there was so much gold.”
Ricardo Mantarano, an Italian visitor, offered another perspective.
He said, “It’s an entirely different approach to the same sculpture and it puts it in a different perspective.”
Dinara Aksyanova (a Russian visitor aged 31), was not as patient.
“Why was it only half?” She said it makes no sense. “The most fascinating part is beneath.”