Built after the economic crisis of 2008, the statue decorating the square at the doorstep of Milan’s stock market seems to be giving Joe the Plumber the finger. Locals also interpret it as a fascist salute with three fingers knocked off. It resonates with people who, in the last decade, have watched as corporate, finance, and banking powers have become ever more friendly with ever more fascist governments…against the interests of the 99%.
Here’s how I wrote up this site in the Rick Steves Italy guidebook:
Piazza degli Affari and a Towering Middle Finger
This square and monument mark the center of Milan’s financial district. The bold fascist buildings in the neighborhood were built in the 1930s under Mussolini. Italy’s major stock exchange, the Borsa, faces the square. Stand in the center and appreciate the modern take on ancient aesthetics (you’re standing atop the city’s ancient Roman theater). Find the stern statues representing various labors and occupations and celebrating the nobility of workers — typical whistle-while-you-work fascist themes. Then notice the equally bold modern statue in the center. After a 2009 contest to find the most appropriate sculpture to grace the financial district, this was the winner. With Italy’s continuing financial problems, here we see how “the 99 percent” feel when they stand before symbols of corporate power. (Notice how the finger is oriented — it’s the 1 percent, and not the 99 percent, who’s flipping the bird.) The 36-foot-tall, Carrara marble digit was made by Maurizio Cattelan, the most famous — or, at least, most controversial — Italian sculptor of our age. L.O.V.E., as the statue is titled, was temporary at first. But locals liked it, and, by popular demand, it’s now permanent.