Milan, will go to trial the three activists who daubed L.O.V.E., Cattelan's finger

The Milan gup has remanded for trial the activists accused of defacing Maurizio Cattelan's L.O.V.E work, the famous finger in Piazza Affari. However, the artist feels neither offended nor harmed by the vandalism. The trial will begin on March 18.

A preliminary hearing was held in Milan on Jan. 17 for the vandalism against the work L.O.V.E by Maurizio Cattelan (Padua, 1960), the famous middle finger in Milan’s Piazza Affari, which was daubed on Jan. 15 last year by three activists from the environmental movement Ultima Generazione, a climate change group. Although the artist had downplayed the gesture he made against the work in front of Palazzo Mezzanotte through a letter written to the activists’ lawyer, Gilberto Pagani, explaining that he felt neither offended nor harmed by the activists’ action, Milan’s gup Giulio Fanales decided to remand the defendants, aged between 23 and 39, for trial. Prosecutor Paola Biondolillo, instead asked for their acquittal for “particular tenuity of the act,” which was deemed a “form of protest with respect to the issue of the climate crisis.” However, the judge decided on the indictment, setting the trial to begin on March 18 before the third criminal court.

“In acknowledging the request sent to me on Jan. 9,” Cattelan wrote in his letter, "I point out that the conduct of your defendants -- who on Jan. 15, 2023, in Piazza degli Affari, Milan, poured yellow washable paint on the base of my work called L.O.V.E. -- does not appear to have ruined or defaced the work. In fact, the subsequent restoration work returned it to its original state and appearance. I would like to add, with regard to my ’reactions following such an occurrence,’ that I was neither offended nor harmed. In fact, I am certain that the perpetrators - whose intentions and goals have been widely disclosed - acted without aggressive intentions toward me or my work."

The Municipality of Milan joined as a civil party and opposed the prosecutor’s request: “the appropriateness is recognized,” reads the Municipality’s executive determination, “of the constitution of the Municipality of Milan in order to be able to obtain compensation for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage suffered by the municipal administration.” The work had been donated by Maurizio Cattelan to the City of Milan in 2012.

The charges against the three Ultima Generazione activists are heavy: “Destruction, dispersal, deterioration, defacement, defacement, and illegal use of cultural or landscape heritage” (art. 518 duodecies, 110 Penal Code), for which they risk imprisonment of two to five years and a fine of 2,500 euros to 15,000 euros.

Image: Cattelan’s defaced work. Photo: Last Generation

Milan, will go to trial the three activists who daubed L.O.V.E., Cattelan's finger
Milan, will go to trial the three activists who daubed L.O.V.E., Cattelan's finger

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