Comic Relief Should Group Sex Be Public Art?

A new sculpture in a southern German town square has tourists snapping pictures and politicians arguing about the role of public art. The work shows Angela Merkel naked, along with other politicians, and the artist is unapologetic. He calls the work his "group-sex relief."


The town of Bodman-Ludwigshafen, in the far south of Germany, doesn't top the itinerary of an average European cultural tourist. But curious Germans have flocked there for over a week to see a new work by the sculptor Peter Lenk, whose carved relief of naked German political leaders has been derided as "cheap" and "piggish" by some local politicians.

The controversial sculpture belongs to a tryptich in the center of Bodman-Ludwigshafen, near its town hall. At first glance the whole relief looks like a lively panorama populated with cartoonish Germans. But one detail shows five German politicians -- including Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder -- naked and laughing and grabbing each other's genitals. A banner over their heads reads, in English, "Global Players."

"Piggish," is how Thomas Strobl, son-in-law of Germany's Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, described the stone relief. Stroble heads the Christian Democratic party (CDU) in the state of Baden-Württemberg, where the town is located. "Cheap effect-mongering," is what Christoph Palmer, another Christian Democrat in Stuttgart, said according to the Berlin paper Die Tageszeitung.

The mayor of Bodman-Ludwigshafen, a nonaligned independent named Matthias Weckbach, has been criticized for commissioning "pornography" and paying for it partly with public funds. The controversial panel, though, is a two-year donation by Lenk himself.

The whole work is called "Ludwig's Legacy," named for the Herzog Ludwig, who also gave his name to the nearby city of Ludwigshafen. It shows a caricatured cross-section of German leaders throughout history. Near the laughing (and living) politicians the sculptor has also placed a group of naked, bathing corporate leaders like Ferdinand Piëch, chairman of the supervisory board at Volkswagen, and Josef Ackermann, the CEO of Deutsche Bank.

Lenk says he set out to show "political group sex," according to the local Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. The five naked politicians are the architects of a welfare-reform package called Harz IV, which has been controversial in Germany for years and attended by more than one scandal involving corporate money and government figures.

"When it comes to their privileges and taking money out of the pockets of citizens," he said, "they all hold the scepter, so to speak. Politics is far more pornographic than any art."

He also said political scandals involving corporate and public money tend to fade from the public's attention after one or two days in the media, "but a memorial like this will stay around and irritate them a bit longer."

msm

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