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More about Santa Claus

ajardini's picture

Sr. Editor

I couldn’t have possibly dreamt up a better title than the nickname the good citizens of Rotterdam have given this Paul McCarthy sculpture... “The Buttplug Gnome.”

McCarthy is known for putting a lewd spin on the visual traditions of Christmas. This bronze Santa is no different. Though some weakly argue that the totem in Mr. Claus’ hand is an artistic rendering of a Christmas tree, it is clearly a giant dildo. Guess we know why St. Nick was so jolly.

The piece is meant to critique the consumer culture that surrounds the holiday, suggesting that the act of shopping for presents is a largely masturbatory gesture that fuels capitalism. It could then be inferred that this sort of economic system ultimately does to us the same penetrative action for which Santa’s (not so) little helper is intended.

It’s crass, but hilarious, especially when you imagine the poor Dutch people who have to see this on their daily commute. Originally intended to be stationed in a much more populated square, Santy was sequestered on a less trafficked route due to general public objection.

Unfortunately, the outrage some felt over the provocative piece incited an attack on public arts funding, an issue all too familiar to us in the States.  The infuriation expressed by an owner of a local bookstore became the fodder for a performance piece called Looking for Paul in which the artists imagined her revenge.

In 2007, McCarthy transformed a gallery space in New York into a functioning chocolate factory, churning out tiny tasty versions of the controversial figure for $100 a pop…just in time for Christmas.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Santa Claus (sculpture)

Santa Claus, popularly known as the Buttplug Gnome, is a 2001 statue by Paul McCarthy in the Eendrachtsplein square of Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Originally made for the International Sculpture Collection with the intended location being outside the De Doelen concert hall, it has been located in various places – including the courtyard of the Boijmans Museum – but moved due to protests from local businesses. Officially the work represents Santa Claus holding a Christmas tree in his hands but the artist has implied that it could also represent a buttplug, and that "...For me, the sculpture is also about the consumer community - as a commentary on material consumption in the Western world." A red version was unveiled in May 2018 in Oslo, Norway. The unveiling was done by a man pulling off the cover, suspended by an overhead crane with hooks through his skin.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Santa Claus (sculpture).