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When size really does matter

Damien Hirst's "The Virgin Mother" on display in Manhattan's Lever House in 2007
Damien Hirst's "The Virgin Mother" on display in Manhattan's Lever House in 2007 wallyg/Flickr

Damien Hirst’s art is in the news again, but the story isn’t only about him for a change. “Virgin Mother,” his 33-foot tall sculpture of a nude pregnant woman exposing the contents of her womb, is causing an uproar because of where it stands - on a front lawn in a residential neighborhood in Old Westbury, N.Y.

Rising the height of a 3-story building, the sculpture is seen as un-neighborly. As village mayor Fred Carillo told the press, “It is out of character with the neighborhood.” Duh.

Another way to see the inordinate elevation of “Virgin Mother”: it's twice the height of Michelangelo’s “David,” which was necessarily out of scale because it was designed to stand high above ground on the roofline of a cathedral.

Of course, a depiction of gestation may be objectionable to some, but the subject is not new in art. Picasso's sculpture "La femme enceinte" (Pregnant Woman) comes to mind. He made it when he wrongly thought it would inspire his partner Francoise Gilot to have a third child. The sculpture can be seen in the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas.

The Connecticut home that Hirst's statue fronts is owned by art collector Aby Rosen. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because of another uproar he’s causing. The New York Landmarks Conservancy is objecting to Rosen's desire to remove Picasso’s unframed theater curtain “Le Tricorne” painted in 1919 - and very delicate at this point - from New York City’s Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building, which Rosen owns.

With Rosen’s insensitivity to scale in Westbury and his insensitivity to landmark art in Manhattan, don’t you get the idea that this art collectors is less interested in art and more in making headlines?

Move over, Damien.