Friday, August 5, 2011

The point

Punta della dogana is the tip of the city. Well, one of many tips, maybe, but it feels like an especially pointy bit of Venice, a little blank triangle of solid ground in a world where sky and lagoon manage to squash the city into a fat squiggle at most, a man-made crack between them.
 This triangle belongs to the city's Accademia delle Belle Arti, ensconced in the rooms and courtyards of the old Hospital for the Incurables (let's hope it's nothing catching). Full of goodies is understatement of the year, but this here is the one piece that everyone, all our fellow canal-and calle wandering gawpers, too cheap to pay entry fees, like best.
It is a sudden rush of perfection, a delight of white at the end of a long walk, the pristine figure, curved, young and alert, Boy with Frog, by LA artist, Charles Ray .
This is the point of art, surely. Refreshment perfected.
Another young man is standing around. He is twenty years old; about as pale as the boy, but wearing more clothes. Shiny shoes, the classic black pants and pale blue shirt of Security Guards everywhere. Meeting his gaze, those chilly eyes, the colour of the horizon, and the word Kapo springs to mind.
Two ladies sidle up to the statue; they are saying things to each other in Spanish about cheeks. You can just tell.
The Kapo hustles them away roughly, harsh. Don't touch, he growls. There's no sign saying you can't handle the trim gluteus, if anything, it seems to invite a palm and a giggle. Nobody seems that interested in the boy's face, or the frog he holds. The Kapo is stern. The women walk away, a little crushed.
Seconds later another pair of ladies arrive. They are tourists from somewhere more exotic, but their hands also can't help reaching for the bum. Touching butts is lucky everywhere, it seems.
I suddenly wonder if it's shame that makes his eyes so hard. Perhaps he feels shooing tourists away from an acrylic posterior is beneath him.
A girl comes out of the Academy; his boss, it seems. She asks him what he's doing out there, she says something about not being paid to just watch one piece of art, that he's needed inside. He looks at her like she's soap and lampshades already.
We move off down the quay towards the lounging gondoliers, as the other tourists do. There's no luck to be had here.
The boy with the frog stands with his face pointed out to sea, but his gaze is fixed on his prisoner, helpless, upside-down. And the guard looks on.

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