stared, face to face, into the eyes of
âDavid,â struggling for words.
âI have to take my time to really feel it,â she said. A moment later, the 30-year-old Czech tourist uttered but one word: âWow.â
The replica of Michelangeloâs nude sculpture, reproduced using one of the worldâs largest 3-D printers, is causing a sensation at the worldâs fair in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Whatâs striking about this version is that Davidâs head is on a different floor from his body. The torso, genitals and legs of the nearly 17-foot-tall figure, while connected to the head, stand in the conference hall below.
Traditionalists are sniffing disapprovingly at the bifurcated view, saying the statue should be viewed in its entirety.
âThe decision to display the copy of the David from the top is utterly ridiculous,â said
a retired art professor at the University of Virginia, who has studied the sculptureâs history. âIt has nothing to do with how the statue was meant to be seen originallyâ¦Why not show the work upside down?â
Yet many visitors to Italyâs pavilion at the exposition appear awe-struck at their up-close and personal moment with the renowned biblical hero.
Completed in 1504, the statue of David depicts the eponymous hero steeled and ready to fight Goliath with his slingshot and stone. When officials in Florence, Italy, first unveiled it, onlookers were meant to gaze up from below, showcasing the artworkâs muscular physique and larger-than-life stature.
The vantage point was intentional, according to one academic theory. The statue was placed outside
the seat of Florenceâs government, to ward off the powerful Medici family, which once ruled the city.
Davidâs eyes looked south toward Rome, where the Medicis plotted a return, and the statueâs presence was a metaphor for Florence as an underdog against outsiders, according to the theory.
artistic director for Italyâs pavilion in Dubai, said he wanted people to view David eye-to-eye. The replica head emerges from the ground floor into a room above, which is decorated with a golden mosaic on the walls and a starry ceiling. Mr. Rampello calls it The Theatre of Memory.
The exhibit is supposed to highlight how modern society is losing its memory through the habit of recording experiences digitally, Mr. Rampello said. David in the center is a symbol of why people should remember history, he said, âfor he is the youth who defeated violence, arrogance, tyrannyâ¦This is why David stares his viewers in the eyes.â
The deep view is lost on many visitors. âI was asking myself: What does this mean?â said
a U.A.E. resident and executive coach.
âThe whole statue would be better,â said Or Ovadia, a 25-year-old Israeli and first-time visitor to Dubai.
Making the replica of the 16th-century marble statue involved 40 hours of digital scanning of the original artwork in Florence, organizers said. Designers then made a three-dimensional digital model and created the statue from filaments of recycled plastic material on the giant 3-D printer.
The figure was a collaboration of the Museum of the Galleria dellâAccademia, the home of the original, the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Florence and Italyâs Ministry of Culture. Replicas also stand outside the Palazzo Vecchio, the original location of the statue, and on top of a hill in Piazzale Michelangelo, both in Florence.
a vociferous art critic and politician, isnât pleased with the split-level display in Dubai. âThe Italian state is humiliated, and Italian art mortified,â he tweeted. âTruly disgusting.â
Mr. Sgarbi said the separate floors censor Davidâs manhood, and he alleged it was done to appease sensitivities in the U.A.E., where laws are based on Islamic strictures and nude images are generally viewed as taboo.
âThe U.A.E. government has never not even remotely mentioned any censorial obligation,â Mr. Rampello said. A spokesperson for Dubai Expo 2020 (it was delayed a year because of the pandemic) referred to a statement from the Italian pavilion denying censorship.
Both men and women attended the statueâs unveiling in April, as well as the opening of the pavilion this month. The statueâs full body is visible from the balcony surrounding the head of David. The conference hall below is open to dignitaries and special events.
Italyâs pavilion, based on the theme âbeauty connects people,â is one of nearly 200 at Expo 2020, the first worldâs fair in the Middle East. The U.A.E. had hoped to attract as many as 25 million visitors and demonstrate the countryâs progress 50 years after its founding.
Rose Balston, a Dubai-based art historian and founding director of art experiences company Artscapes U.K., said the introspective Michelangelo would have been âwell pleased with this bang-up-to-dateâ digital twin of his work.
âWe have the rare opportunity to look David in the eye as he sizes up Goliath, a privilege that only deepens our understanding of Michelangeloâs staggering handiwork,â she said.
a 64-year-old New Yorker, agreed.
âYou see the emotion,â she said, wearing a face mask. âWeâve been 18 months without seeing peopleâs faces, so itâs kind of nice to engage.â
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