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Sunday, May 15, 2011

At Milan's Bourse, Finger Pointing Has Business Leaders Up in Arms

Sculptor Cattelan Made a Rude Statement; Why Not? Wall Street Has a Bull

MILAN—Wall Street's charging-bull statue is the very epitome of financial strength. Outside the stock exchange in Italy's financial capital is an equally unambiguous symbol: a giant marble middle finger.

The 36-foot white sculpture is a hand without fingers except that vulgar one, pointing away from Milan's stock market. It was made by Italy's most famous contemporary artist, Maurizio Cattelan, who donated it to the city last year on the condition that it grace Piazza Affari, or Business Square, where the bourse has its headquarters.

Milan's mayor agreed to it. Now, however, the statue is raising hackles among the city's business and financial establishment. Consob, Italy's stock-exchange regulator, threatened to move its annual meeting, usually held in the stock exchange, elsewhere, lest the fickle finger offend the organization's members. Assogestioni, an Italian asset-managers group, recently moved its conference to a business school.

Stock market Chief Executive Raffaele Jerusalmi says the view from his third-floor office onto Piazza Affari was ruined last year when the statue arrived. In March, he moved to an adjacent wing. "I don't suffer from the finger anymore," he says.

The city's politicians, however, are sticking to their guns, even making the statue part of their electoral platforms ahead of this weekend's local elections.

For conservative Mayor Letizia Moratti, the finger is raising Milan's cultural profile, a goal that is part of her electoral platform. "Milan must be a capital for contemporary art," says city councilman for culture Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, who commissioned the finger and works with Ms. Moratti. The mayor declined to comment.

The city's center-left candidate, Giuliano Pisapia, who is running against Ms. Moratti, also supports the statue as "a free expression of artistic creativity…that shouldn't be censored," he said through a spokeswoman. "It's an open criticism of the international financial management that led to the great crisis of 2008."

Continue reading - WSJ - At Milan's Bourse, Finger Pointing Has Business Leaders Up in Arms

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