Milanese amused by enormous naked balloon sculpture in park

Sunday, May 13, 2007

MILAN, Italy -- It would take one large fig leaf to restore modesty to Milan's main park after the installation of a 70-foot floating sculpture of a naked man.

The balloon self-portrait by Polish artist Pawel Althamer has been hovering outside the Renaissance Palazzina Appiani in Parco Sempione since Monday, drawing second takes, amused looks and some reprobation about exposing children to nudity.

"To be honest with you, it's nothing new," said Rosaria Mirabelli, mother of 3-year-old Tommaso who stared at the sculpture from the back of his mother's bicycle.

"He sees his father naked. In this park we see so many worse things than a naked man," she said, referring to the park's reputation as a haven for drug users.

On weekday afternoons, the park is given over to mothers, nannies and grandparents with preschool-age children in tow, along with a few joggers, cyclists and dog owners.

The work was conceived by Warsaw-based Althamer in 1999.

Flavio Del Monte, spokesman of the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, the show's sponsor, credited the balloon with the high turnout to the event. It has attracted more than 3,000 visitors in its first three days.

Most people have been amused by the sculpture, he said, noting that Italians, surrounded as they are by Renaissance masterpieces, are used to nudity in public places.

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