JPII: Man without a chest? Or Ghost of Christmas present?

Picking on minimalist modern art is usually an unfair game. This case is no exception, but given the subject and the location of the offending piece, this one cries out for comment.

I really can’t find anything to like in the statue of Blessed John Paul II just unveiled in front of the Termini train station in Rome.

I suppose I can appreciate what the author wants to do with the cape sweeping out to embrace the world, as the man himself did so frequently. But that’s about it, and even that barely works.

The unkindly face bears no similarity to John Paul, and the head is a swollen blob jutting out of the top—almost as though a sculptor were caricaturing the round Slavic noggin.

The body really isn’t. The blob of a head seems just stuck on top of a silo. The cape could be mistaken for a door, since it sweeps out from an opening inside of which a person could seek shelter from the rain. Methinks more than one person will.

The void where the body should be might be meant to suggest that he welcomed everyone, but doesn’t that usually mean he welcomed them to *something* rather than nothing?

And it is apparently positioned so that when tourists come out of Termini, Rome’s primary train station, they are looking at the back of the roughly 16-foot tall bronze monstrosity.

There is a place for art that evokes thoughts and impressions rather than accurately and perfectly depicting a likeness, but this one fails to do either. And it certainly does not evoke the true sense of the man whose name it bears.



  • Panda Rosa

    If anything, the head on top resembles the Big Green Head from The Wizard of Oz, except he’d be exclaiming “Pay no attention to that man UNDER the curtain!”
    I agree with Davide, it would be more interesting as a coral reef, or maybe as a shelter from the rain.

  • AuthenticBioethics

    I truly believe that artists and architects who are commissioned by the Church often pull a fast one. The artist “says” it represents such-and-so, like this statue “welcoming” everyone. But why should we not think the artist believes JP-II to be hollow, an empty shell? “See, everyone, there’s nothing of substance here!” And he passes it off as art, as symbolic of something we believe of the subject.

    Junk is junk, and thankfully, it’s getting more obvious that it is.

    • Bridget

      The image of JPII as an empty shell was one of the first things that struck me, too. That’s one of my problems with recent art: The artist knows what his works signify, but the viewer can only guess. Art then devolves into purely “self-expression” instead of an illustration of the beauty of God’s creation. Blech.

      • Tom Crowe

        Bridget— Worse than guess, the viewer can ascribe whatever meaning he wants, and no one can tell him he’s wrong.

        • Panda Rosa

          On the other hand, it also means a person can’t be sure what meaning fits, either. If it’s not an empty shell what IS it?
          The “Ghost of Christmas Present” image is the one I like.

  • Davide

    That thing is ugly. The Romans and Vatican officials can’t stand looking at it. On sketch the Vatican approved it. But the sculpture nothing like the sketches. I read in italia press today the artist has agreed to make “modifications” after the huge outcry. It needs dumped in the ocean and used as coral reef. It is deplorable. Looks like something from the ” The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

  • mary

    i agree. bleahhh!!!



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