Eye of the beholder

Sculpture of thumb stirs controversy in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — A sculpture of a thumb has become a focal point of public interest and debate in Baghdad, drawing widespread discussion on social media over the past few days.

The sculpture is situated in front of the Qalb Al-Alaam hotel in the Jadriya area of Baghdad.

The sculpture symbolizes the thumb of Abdulla Jaburi, the hotel owner, who stated, “I wanted to leave my mark in Iraq.”

Critics argue that the sculpture lacks artistic significance and many consider consider it a ‘social embarrassment’ due to its alleged resemblance to a penis.

The Iraqi Artists’ Syndicate, ostensibly a defender of Iraqi artists’ interests, has requested the National Investment Commission to instruct the investor to remove the “Finger” sculpture.

“The sculpture does not belong to the civilization of Mesopotamia in time or place, nor does it symbolize the values, beliefs, and history of Baghdad civilization. It lacks substantial artistic and aesthetic value,” the syndicate said in a statement.

The syndicate claims that the sculpture was installed without their approval, contrary to the directives of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers’ Government Coordination and Citizens Affairs Department dated November 29, 2018.

The syndicate has called for the sculpture’s removal and suggested announcing a competition for the design and execution of a new sculpture by well-known Iraqi visual artists.

The National Investment Commission has responded to the Iraqi Artists’ Syndicate’s request to remove the “Finger” sculpture. In a statement, the commission clarified that the hotel project falls under the jurisdiction of the Baghdad Investment Commission, and the designs and plans are within their authority since they granted the investment license and secured the necessary approvals.

The debate around Baghdad’s thumb sculpture echoes similar discussions about other notable thumb sculptures around the world, such as “Le Pouce” by César Baldaccini in Paris, which has become an iconic landmark despite. César, one of the founders of the New Realism artistic movement, created the Paris icon as a representation of his own thumb, much like hotelier Jaburi, who commissioned the Baghdad piece.