If you’re active on Instagram, there’s one particularly intriguing Milan sight that might make a regular appearance in your feed: L.O.V.E., a thirteen-foot high marble sculpture known colloquially as “that giant middle finger,” created by Maurizio Cattelan, one of Italy’s most important contemporary artists.
L.O.V.E. stands in Piazza degli Affari, seeming to flip off the Stock Exchange Building, or Borsa (also the Italia word for purse), which happens to be built over Roman theater. So yes, New York City’s Wall Street has a charging bull while Milan’s stock exchange is more provocative, showcasing, what at first glance appears to be a vulgar gesture, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
The statue’s name is an acronym for libertà, odio, vendetta, eternità (freedom, hate, revenge, eternity). Artist Maurizio Cattelan didn’t exactly depict a hand that’s flipping the bird, but rather a closer look shows all the other fingers have been chopped off. The hand was in the form of a Nazi salute and the remaining middle finger is meant to be an attack on fascism, the era from which hails the piazza’s architecture. It can also be interpreted as the artist’s way of saying”f*ck you” to the bankers and financiers who work inside the square’s buildings. As in most countries where the economy took a downhill turn, work in the financial sector is believed to have contributed the recession that catapulted Italy into a financial crisis.
Cattelan created the statue in 2010, and he donated it to the city so long as it was displayed in this piazza.
Honestly, I think flipping the bird is tacky and if someone posts a photo of themselves doing so in my social network defends, I’m likely to stop following them. But here, the irony of the name and the entire irreverence and juxtaposition is art and it ingenious and cheeky.
It’s super easy to find, between the Duomo and 5 Vie quarters, and about five minutes walking from the Cordusio Metro station.