Santa Claus stirred up the biggest local art scandal of the
last few decades -and yet it looks so friendly and benevolent! What is
the problem? This Santa Claus is holding not a miniature Christmas tree,
but a sex toy; a butt plug.
When the politicians and the general public learnt of that, a long debate began that extended far beyond the national boundaries. Some found it tasteless and offensive, while others considered that a hypocritical point of view in an era permeated by commercial sex. Is this élite taste terrorism, or should art stimulate the debate? And should it be allowed in the street, or would it not be more in place in the closed setting of a museum?
Of course, this being the Netherlands, money came into the debate. The
sculpture cost 180,000 euros, which is not much for a large work by
McCarthy. The US artist is regarded as one of the leading lights of the
art world. The low price was secured through the keen bargaining of Joop
van Caldenborgh, (former) chairman of the committee.
In the meantime the sculpture has been shifted from one location to another in the city like a hot potato. In the end Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen offered it a haven, as it had done earlier for other sculptures.
It is to be hoped that one day it will be given a location in a busy shopping street. McCarthy's Santa Claus is the bronze king of instant satisfaction, symbol of consumer enjoyment. The design of the sculpture combines high and low culture. Will Rotterdam ever become endeared to 'the gnome with the butt plug', as happened with other controversial sculptures in the past? If indignant residents were to have their say, Zadkines sculpture would not be there either.
From Zadkine to McCarthy, a guide to the Rotterdam International Sculpture Collection
Author: Dick van Teilingen
Translator: Peter Mason
|nicknames||The gnome with the butt plug|
Marco & Jordi (Ro Theater) tijdens Jubileum SIR op 11 september 2011