Milan’s ‘L.O.V.E.’ Sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan Vandalized by Climate Activists

Eco-activists’ attack on iconic “L.O.V.E.” sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan in Milan causes a stir among the public.

Eco-activists stage a bold protest against fossil fuel funding in front of iconic 'L.O.V.E.' sculpture in Milan, sparking heated debate among onlookers. Ultima Generazione

On Sunday morning, a group of young eco-activists from the organization Ultima Generazione targeted “Love,” the sculpture commonly known as “Il Dito” by Maurizio Cattelan, an artist known for his provocateur style. According to Corriere della Sera, the sculpture, which depicts a hand in a Roman salute but with the fingers cut off, leaving only the middle finger standing, was symbolically defaced with washable yellow paint at the base, while three activists displayed a banner that read ‘Stop fossil fuel subsidies’ against Italian banks that finance the current energy system. The activists then sat down on the ground and were removed by police officers. They have been identified as a 23-year-old girl and boy and a 39-year-old man, all Italian.

Maurizio Cattelan protest Climate activists
Activists make their mark with orange paint in the latest of a series of global protests for climate justice. Photo Ultima Generazione.

As Corriere della Sera reports, the police unit that intervened at the scene is investigating the case and coordinating with the judicial authorities to determine the appropriate actions to take. In an official statement, one of the activists, Leonardo, explained, “We’re doing this to send a clear message: this is a symbol of indifference to the climate and ecological collapse. A lot of money that goes to fossil fuel industries moves here.” The location of Cattelan’s statue is not accidental. The sculpture was placed in front of the Palazzo Mezzanotte, the headquarters of the Milan Stock Exchange, on September 24, 2010. After the city’s approval and after much controversy, the sculpture was placed in front of the stock exchange building. The marble hand is 4 meters and 60 centimeters high, and was placed on a column that brings the overall height of the sculpture to almost 11 meters.

As is also revealed in a video released by the organization, passersby and residents criticized the activists with statements such as “you’re a shame” and “this is not the way to protest. This is everyone’s heritage.” In the video, Sandro, one of the three participants in this morning’s action, shares his perspective saying “I am 39 years old, have a child and a good job at a solid company, my usual place is at a clean white desk. Yet today, it is more normal to be here, with paint, together with these young people who show a great sense of reality.”

Katherine Thomson is an arts critic in Milan.