Michelangelo’s “David” (1501–1504) simply cannot catch a break: Scottish advertisers recently deemed the 17-foot marble sculpture too explicit to be featured in ads for the Glasgow subway system.
In March, the statue was the subject of a heated censorship debate when conservative parents in a Tallahassee school district found the Renaissance work to be “pornographic” and not appropriate for the sixth-grade art history curriculum. The parental pushback resulted in the sudden resignation of the Tallahassee Classical School’s principal, Hope Carrasquilla (who was then formally invited to Florence by the city’s mayor and given a warm welcome at the Galleria dell’Accademia, where “David” is housed.)
The subway ad campaign at the heart of the most recent controversy was led by Barolo, an Italian restaurant in Glasgow’s city center that is part of the DRG Group, which also owns a number of hospitality businesses in various Scottish cities. The original draft for the advertisement depicted a cropped image of the Biblical shepherd eating a slice of pizza to promote Barolo’s authentic Italian cuisine, accompanied by the tagline “It doesn’t get more Italian.”
But Global, the advertising firm that manages the Glasgow subway ad space, rejected the draft because “it is art but it is still nudity,” according to the DRG Group.
“This is a globally recognized piece of art. It is taught in schools. People from all over the world travel to see it,” Mario Gizzi, director of the DRG Group, said in a statement to Hyperallergic.
“It’s not the 1500s anymore, it’s 2023,” he continued. “Are we really saying that the people of Glasgow can’t handle seeing a naked statue?”
Nadine Carmichael, head of sales and marketing for the DRG Group, told BBC reporters that the firm returned to Global with another edit of the poster, using stickers to cover the statue’s crotch this time. “The feedback was that they weren’t actually big enough,” Carmichael told the BBC.
The hospitality group eventually returned with yet another version, cropping the image of “David” from the waist up. This edit was finally approved by Global.
“We got there in the end,” Carmichael said. She also explained that the DRG Group had considered a number of iconic Italian artworks as potential options for the ad campaign, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” (c. 1503–1517).
“Barolo is all about Italy’s classic cooking and Michelangelo’s David is one of the country’s most famous artworks — as the ad states, it doesn’t get more Italian than that,” Gizzi said.
Global has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment.