A face only the sculptor could love

Remember this?

Direct from an episode of Doctor Who, comes this new statue at the Stazione Termini in Rome.

Some people think it is monstrous.

I am one of them.

The sculptor is defending his work.

From CNA:

John Paul II sculptor defends his work
By David Kerr

Rome, Italy, Jun 21, 2011 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The sculptor of a much criticized statue of Blessed John Paul II has defended his work and suggested it could, one day, be regarded as “a classic.” [A classic... what?]

“Naturally, I understand that is it not conventional, and the proposal might create a different look to what was expected,” Italian artist Olivero Rainaldi told CNA in his first media interview since the row surrounding the statue’s unveiling in May.

“But there are so many beautiful photographs. Why do we need a photographic resemblance?”  [Soooo.... that... just off the top of my head... people know it is the late Pope?  Just a thought.]

At the time of its unveiling, the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano described the 12-foot bronze statue situated outside Rome’s Termini train station as having “little resemblance’’ to Pope John Paul.

The result is not what was intended and his face on the top of the statue bears little resemblance and already there has been much criticism … it makes him look like a tent … it looks like a bomb has hit,” the paper said.

The President of Rome’s Cultural Commission, Federico Mollicone, went further, calling it “a permanent and sacrilegious mud stain on his memory.[!]

Meanwhile, a poll in the Italian La Repubblica newspaper found that 87 percent of the general public also disliked the statue. But Rainaldi is unfazed by such negative reactions.  [Perhaps he will never be hired again?]

“When Michaelangelo’s David was first taken into the Piazza della Signoria in the middle of the night, everything, including the dimensions, were different from what they (people) expected.”  [Sorry.  I knew Michelangelo's David.  This is no Michelangelo's David.]

“I’m just making an example, not to draw strange comparisons. But we need to make comparisons like this. Then, over time, they became classics,” said the 55-year-old artist whose modernist work has gained him success in both Italy and the U.S. [Which sadly doesn't surprise me.  But when his work is actually shown to people with common sense, things don't work out so well.]

Certainly the Vatican is in no rush to cut artistic links with Oliviero Rainaldi. In fact, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi—the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture—has asked the Italian sculptor to be one of 60 artists that will create a work to honor the 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s ordination to the priesthood this month. [Yet another reason why Card. Ravasi should never advance to a more influential position.]

Richard Rouse, also of the Pontifical Council for Culture, observed that Rinaldi is “somebody who’s been criticized but is continuing to work and that’s a wonderful thing.”  [If at first you don't succeed....]

Although his sculpture has received a lot of criticism, Rinaldi said he put real thought into the Pope John Paul II statue[I love that.  It reminds me of what liberals say. "I really struggled with this decision to [COMMIT MORTAL SIN X].”]

The man within was more interesting to me than the man outside[Then he should have it, not the people of Rome.] describing a man who was “lacerated” inside “not only by his infirmity but also by his mission.”

“These are often things that even the people who are close to you, and love you, don’t want to see. [Including more of the Roman people.] Often we want to (see) that they are strong, beautiful – but it is not always the case. This man showed he was beautiful for others reasons beyond his appearance.”  [So... bottom line: it's an ugly statue.]

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41 Responses to A face only the sculptor could love

  1. Mike Morrow says:

    Scientists and engineers are the only people deserving the title of “artist”. Any worthless pretender bozo, like Rainaldi, can claim to be an artist when there are no criteria to be met.

  2. Mariana says:

    Well, a classic in the sense of a classic Fascist style head on a modernist style body.

  3. Daniel Latinus says:

    Yes, it’s a classic all right; CLASSIC FAIL.

  4. Patti Day says:

    “The man within was more interesting to me than the man outside”

    But there isn’t anything inside. that’s what we’re saying.

    “These are often things that even the people who are close to you, and love you, don’t want to see.

    You mean your mother doesn’t like it either.

  5. kallman says:

    Emperor’s new (no) clothes, Clown Mass, clown (junk) sculpture, wake up folks!
    This is garbage, throw it into the trash can of Papal history, hope JPII is laughing at this
    (Malachi Martin will be!).

  6. Charles E Flynn says:

    Perhaps Christo and Jeanne-Claude could drape the statue. Permanently.

  7. Mundabor says:

    “There are so many beautiful photos, let’s make an ugly statue!”

    Classic!

    Mundabor

  8. terryprest says:

    “I’m just making an example, not to draw strange comparisons. But we need to make comparisons like this. Then, over time, they became classics,”

    Perhaps they could take the statue away and stick it in a warehouse. Then when time has passed by and it has become “classic” it could be brought out to be viewed again.

    In the meantime they could fill the space with something more acceptable

  9. Kerry says:

    “Classic, c-l-a-s-s-i-c, completely lacking any sublime sensibility, infernal, & contradictory; classic”

  10. ipadre says:

    It is horrid. Maybe it could be call the Blessed John Paul iTent!

  11. digdigby says:

    Having read the artist’s egoistical blather casually bringing in the David and shrugging indifferently that nine in ten of the public actively despise his ‘art’, I have lost my last shred of charity regarding the whole affair. I had a fantasy of a clumsy oaf of an artist ‘way in over his head’ and was ready to feel sorry for him. No more.

  12. Denis Crnkovic says:

    “The man within was more interesting to me than the man outside” …describing a man who was “lacerated” inside “not only by his infirmity but also by his mission.”

    Rainaldi’s comment logically leads to the conclusion that Blessed John Paul was empty and vacuous inside, nothing more than a gaping hole with no guts, no heart. That is not how I remember the late Pontiff. Let’s face it, ninety-nine percent of impressionistic and abstract art is produced because the artist does not know his craft, has never learned anatomy or how to observe, draw and/or sculpt. It is more often lack of talent and hard work than any deep desire to produce real art that results in monstrous and genueinely ugly pieces like this one.

  13. disco says:

    Love the Lloyd Bentson reference, Father. What a crock. If this piece or crap statue is a fitting tribute to Blessed John Paul them I am Mickey Mouse.

  14. TNCath says:

    The only somewhat meaningful purpose of that statue is that its interior looks like a great place for the homeless people that hang around Termini to sleep at night.

  15. Bryan Boyle says:

    I’m thinking it would fit in better outside the LA borg ship oops Cathedral than anywhere in the City of Rome. Same modernist tendencies, same self-referential sentiments, same…uh…artistic milieu?

  16. Joe in Canada says:

    Is part of Cardinal Ravasi’s job to find work for nephews of prelates?

  17. jarhead462 says:

    “When Michaelangelo’s David was first taken into the Piazza della Signoria in the middle of the night, everything, including the dimensions, were different from what they (people) expected.”

    Let’s say that is true- My guess is that the people expected something smaller, and maybe not as breathtakingly beautiful. I doubt they stood around and said “male, male, male!”

  18. Ef-lover says:

    Rinaldi said he put real thought into the Pope John Paul II statue.

    Oh dear, what might it look like if he did not put “real thought” into it.

  19. sejoga says:

    I love that. It reminds me of what liberals say. “I really struggled with this decision to [COMMIT MORTAL SIN X].”

    Father, didn’t you know? Not only to the ends justify the means, but also, the means justify the ends!

    If you’re working towards some generally good goal, then, by all means, lie, cheat, steal, or kill if you must: it’s all perfectly moral so long as somewhere down the road it accomplishes something good. The ends justify the means, you know.

    Likewise, if you must do something bad for its own sake, then so long as you really struggle with it, and think really hard about it first, then you can go ahead and do it. The means justify the ends, in that case.

    You can never do anything wrong (foul word!), so long as anything that you do, you do it sanctimoniously!

    /Sarcasm. This doesn’t have anything to do with the statue, but your comment, Father, reminded me of how much Moral Philosophers of the Oprah Age grate on my nerves. It really is amusing to see the kind of mental contortions they go through to rationalize any evil act.

    Political incorrectness is the only unforgivable sin. In fact, it’s the only sin at all, I think.

  20. JoyfulMom7 says:

    Dear Father Z – I have taken your request to pray for you to heart, and have increased my prayers for you. I will offer my Holy hour of Adoration for you this evening. I am glad to see that you still have your sense of humor!!!! Your comments on this article are priceless!

  21. sejoga says:

    Unfortunately, the artist is somewhat right about things becoming, ahem, “classics” after a certain time. He compares it to Michelangelo’s David–HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!–but a better comparison would be that heinous glass pyramid in front of the Louvre.

    When it was first designed, everyone pretty much uniformly thought it was ugly and awful that it detracted from the site (as it did and does). The Louvre itself is a work of art, and thrusting a glass pyramid haphazardly into its courtyard is something that strikes me as comparable to painting a Coca-Cola logo on the forehead of the Mona Lisa. I don’t see how people don’t realize that it’s simply and plainly an act of appropriation–a lesser architect who can’t add anything of value just erected a large attention-diverter so that people become so caught up with the addition that they fail to recognize the beauty of the original work. That’s why it’s always called “striking”–it just slaps you in the face to see it.

    At any rate, the initial response to the Louvre’s glass pyramid has given way to the response of a generation of people who have never known the Louvre as anything but the museum with a huge glass pyramid in the middle. And that generation (my generation) has been fed a bunch of high-minded garbage from art-charlatans who tell us that we have to believe it’s something beautiful and interesting, and anyone questioning the pyramid’s “classic-ness” is narrow-minded and provincial.

    So now the Louvre pyramid is widely hailed as a classic of the contemporary art & architecture world… but only because of propaganda designed to cut young people off from any sense of connection with the past, and what “beauty” meant to people of the past. The same thing may very well happen with this statue of, uh, John Paul. It’s not unlike the way people growing up in Communist regimes are taught to believe that freedom is chaotic and frightening; or the way young people are expected to believe that they’re better off growing up in broken homes with fatherless families because they’ve been “liberated” by the sexual revolution; or the way young Europeans are supposed to believe that Europe is better having a massive and expensive, unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy that gives unimaginable power and prestige to a ruling class that tells everyone how much the public needs them, for “unity”; etc.

    I’m increasingly thinking the whole twentieth and twenty-first centuries are going to simply be a blot on the face of history. We’ll just be remembered as totalitarians and boors, who upheaved the world and its social order just to leave behind ugly crap to our posterity.

  22. APX says:

    The President of Rome’s Cultural Commission, Federico Mollicone, went further, calling it “a permanent and sacrilegious mud stain on his memory.”

    Ha! I couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Studies have proven that classic beauty is found in things which follow the Golden Ratio. Perhaps it’s something artists might want to take into consideration.

  23. Ygnacia says:

    My children are frightened…and they even really like Dr. Who…

  24. Andreas says:

    That this piece is so criticized is not surprising. Here in Europe, the arts and architecture have taken a retrograde turn back to the Weimar between-the-wars period of experimentation based not on the aesthetic, but on what message the artist and architect wish to convey. It is an ego-centric approach that essentially eschews concepts like tradition, warmth, gemuetlichkeit, sensitivity to the surround and embraces the purposeful notion of creation ‘despite’ rather than ‘in harmony with’ the almost natural affinity humans have for the truly beautiful. So-called elites denigrate such concepts as simplistic and unsophisticated…old…obsolete…quaint concepts. Rather, their message is cloaked in the flag of modernity which requires one to accept what it is that they, the artists and architects, wish to give. The result us that rather than seeking the root of beauty and in keeping with the surround, the beautiful old building is not restored; rather, in this odd regard it is considered an affront to modernity and must be torn down, obliterated and replaced with the new, in-fashion sterile boxy bunkers that one see sprouting amongst the most historically invaluable towns and cities. Rather than a life-like image of strength, beauty, hope and love that so defined Blessed John Paul II, there is a tent-like empty shell created by a perplexed artist who cannot fathom why all others cannot appreciate the work in the same manner as he himself. But then again, to the artist and architect in today’s Europe, does that really matter?

  25. Invincible Ignorance! Defined for all to see.

  26. Sid says:

    N. T. Wright recently observed in a lecture (“Asking the Right Questions” on Youtube) that in the arts we in very late modernity (my term) have only the sentimental (I’d call it “kitsch”) and the brutal. I add that this seem particularly so in music and the visual arts. And faux Folk music, such as what we often must endure at Mass, and Rock are largely kitsch. This statue is brutal.

  27. irishgirl says:

    Another reason why I don’t like most modern art-it’s always so ugly.
    Why can’t so-called ‘artists’ make beautiful things anymore these days? Everything is so ‘butt-ugly’….
    Sigh….

  28. JKnott says:

    I wonder if Oliviero Rainaldi has even read Blessed John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists”

    It would be fascinating to know how Étienne Gilson (1884–1978) would critique this monstrosity. Several years ago I came upon (at Holy Apostles Library) a superb compilation of lectures on art by Etienne Gilson given at Carniege Mellon Institute. Can’t find it on line. This Catholic philosopher presents various perspectives of (mostly but not entirely) the visual arts and architecture. One aspect that he covers brilliantly is the internal process of the artist. I am an artist and was very surpised by his insight.
    I can’t find this online but there are a couple of works by him at; http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/catalog/?category_id=240

  29. mibethda says:

    This work has one saving feature – it is cast of bronze and can thereforee be melted down and recast into something of utility and value. As I recall, several Renaissance statues were melted down in the 16th century and recast as bronze cannon. While the Vatican at present may have no need for cannon, perhaps some alternative use can be found.

  30. tealady24 says:

    Me and Michelangelo agree; it’s ugly! Get it outta there!

  31. Kieninger says:

    Melt it down and cast a nice peal of bells instead. A 1978 Fiat Strada on cinder blocks would be better public “art” than a bronze porta-potty with Mussolini’s head on top.

  32. Sacristymaiden says:

    Doctor Who has better taste I think.

  33. Martial Artist says:

    Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,

    You wrote “[So... bottom line: it's an ugly statue.]”

    I think the situation is, at least marginally, worse than that. The bottom line is that it is a deliberately ugly statue! Intentions may not excuse, but they matter.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  34. Dr. Eric says:

    Does the sculptor REALLY have the gall to compare that blankety blank blank statue to Michelangelo’s David? How arrogant!

  35. Maria says:

    I wouldn’t even bother to park a car in it. Its grotesque.

    To be honest, it looks like the work of one bone-idle layabout to me. Someone who calls himself an artist, made a head of sorts and soldered it or whatever onto something from the scrapyard.
    Its like the sort of art I myself have tried to produce from time to time then when I got so far I got stuck, then messed around with it to improvise to something else, then squashed it up, then binned it.
    However, not so easy to bin when its this sizeI guess and easier to try to pass it on as ‘art’, in the hope of not having wasted time and money on it after all.
    Thats my honest opinion.

    Definately a thumbs down for me.

  36. Tony Layne says:

    “Although his sculpture has received a lot of criticism, Rinaldi said he put real thought into the Pope John Paul II statue.” About as stunning an indictment of modern education as could be devised.

  37. AnAmericanMother says:

    We can fix this.
    I’ll bring a couple of Bubbas I know with a good work truck with an oxy cutting torch and a loader crane on the back deck. We’ll have this down, cut up, and off to the scrap yard in an hour or so. Then somebody can put the metal to better use than for a statue even the “artist” admits is ugly.
    And before the rednecks in the audience complain, (1) I are one; (2) my daddy’s name is Bubba, and he’s a former Combat Engineer (to the extent that they are ever ‘former’ – they’re like Marines in that respect). In fact, he spent some time in Italy in the winter of ’43-’44, so we can bring him along as a translator and technical consultant.

  38. digdigby says:

    Maria said: “To be honest, it looks like the work of one bone-idle layabout to me. Someone who calls himself an artist, made a head of sorts and soldered it or whatever onto something from the scrapyard.”
    You don’t know bone-idle. Do you really think this Clown soldered this ‘thing’. As is customary
    he made a model of it in clay, probably about the size of a Thanksgiving turkey and then hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to have professionals at a foundry create in every detail whatever he slopped together. This is usual for Serra and other strutting peacocks of imbecilic and hideous public art.

  39. mibethda says:

    Two of our local communities (West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens) both passed ordinances some years back requiring that all new commercial structures budget a portion of the construction costs – about 2% – for public ‘works of art’. As a result, the landscape is covered with a multitude of bizarre creations which seem to have been salvaged from local junkyards – none quite so hideous as this one by Rainaldi, but some are not far behind on the ugliness index . Most of them have cost upwards of several hundred thousand dollars. This is the sad state of most of our modern public art.

  40. benedetta says:

    We have become oh so enlightened, evolved, sophisticated that even though all is relative somehow people must now be discouraged from the opinion that it is hideously ugly. Can’t have it both ways, that we are enlightened, sophisticated, and evolved, and at the same time hopelessly ignorant peasants who know not the ways of Art.

    When he started analogizing self to Michelangelo in this interview, I found it difficult to read just about anything else this sculptor had to say about it.

    Aside from being plain old ugly, what it looks like is that this sculptor could not decide between realistic form or abstract and so instead just went with a punt mired in confusion.

  41. PostCatholic says:

    Don’t touch it! I love that ugly statue and all that it does actually succeed in representing.