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What Would Mozart Think?

As a tiny article (Le retour de la castration by Lucien Lambert, August 15) in Le Point relates, different artistic interests can not only compete but also destroy one another. The Rupertinum, the modern art museum of Salzburg, Austria, commissioned a temporary sculpture from the Viennese art collective Gelatin to be displayed publicly in the Max-Reinhardt-Platz during the prestigious Salzburg Music Festival (July 26 to August 31). The sculpture, titled Arc de Triomphe, was displayed to considerable uproar for two weeks (as Lambert put it punningly, the work "a semé la zizanie"). As you can see in these photos, the arc is formed by the plasticine body of a man wearing only a tank top and sweat socks and who appears to be micturating (or ejaculating?) into his own mouth. Apparently not buying the intellectualized contextualization of the museum's leadership ("It formally and optimistically presents itself in the tradition of the triumphal arch; at the same time, however, it makes the differences between winners and losers appear to be obsolete"), officials from the Salzburger Festspiele, which is much more profitable to the city than the modern art museum, won the battle. They first had the sculpture covered over during the visit of Prince Charles and have now obtained its permanent removal from the Max-Reinhardt-Platz.

However, knowing how much Mozart wanted to leave Salzburg, which he saw as a provincial backwater where he felt he had no future, to go to Vienna, I cannot help but think that he would have laughed at the gesture the sculpture made. The Viennese artists have certainly succeeded in what I assume was their ultimate goal: "épater la bourgeoisie." And that's something Mozart probably would have enjoyed.

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