Maurizio Cattelan's sculptures have often sparked controversy
A disturbing sculpture at the Biennale of Contemporary Art has sparked controversy in Seville, southern Spain.
Visitors to La Cartuja - the former monastery where the show is being held - are greeted in the courtyard by the sight of three tall, white poles.
Halfway up the middle one hangs a realistic dummy of a boy aged about 10, white, blond-haired and dressed in clean Western clothes. His eyes are open and his face expressionless.
There is a rope around his neck.
According to Spanish television, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan wanted to make a statement about the children who die of thirst around the world because they do not have enough water.
The figure is a portrait of Mr Cattelan himself as a boy.
The sculpture has sparked fierce debate.
Micaela Navarro - an Andalucian regional official - formally requested that it be withdrawn on the grounds that it was "extremely violent".
"I think freedom of artistic expression must always be respected," she conceded at a news conference broadcast on Spanish TV.
"But... this is a Biennale and it's also going to be visited a great deal by schools, by children," she went on.
However, the show's director, Juana de Aizpuru, refused to remove the sculpture.
"Cattelan is a provocateur, but you have to understand that the role of artists currently is not to make beautiful things that give satisfaction, but to ask about red-hot issues," she told the newspaper ABC.
"How can society be so hypocritical that it is surprised by a doll hanging from a pole, when every day we see pictures of children with their mothers dying?" she added.
But David Torres, of the Madrid daily El Mundo, countered this in scathing terms.
"What surprises me is the vast hypocrisy of Cattelan... and the congenital imbecility of much of the contemporary art business," he wrote.
The Biennale of Contemporary Art is the first such exhibition to be held in the Spanish city.
Its slogan is "The joy of my dreams", and the show's Swiss organiser, Harald Szeemann, said its aim was to celebrate the delights of modern art.
One of the works on show is a huge painted skateboard run, by the late German artist Michael Majerus. Another, by Chiharu Shiota of Japan, consists of 24 young women lying under the sheets in hospital beds under a leafy canopy.
And indeed, the show is not all gloom and doom, according to web newspaper Estrella Digital.
"The festive spirit of most of the works prevails over provocation, although there are also figures of Chechen terrorists, Saddam Hussein, the odd swastika... and mannequins with pubic hair," it says.
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