New red “Santa” statue

Red version of controversial statue unveiled in Oslo’s Ekebergparken


Photo: Florian Holzherr / e-flux
Paul McCarthy, Santa, 2018.

The Local

A 20-foot-tall statue by artist Paul McCarthy, officially named Santa but known colloquially as the “Butt Plug Gnome,” has been unveiled in Oslo. The statue is a red version of the original in bronze by McCarthy, a 72-year-old artist from Los Angeles.

The original Santa Claus, created by provocative artist McCarthy in 2001 for the city of Rotterdam, was intended to be placed next to the Dutch city’s concert hall, but was eventually given a different location after it was seen by many citizens as having sexual connotations. It is often referred to locally as the “Butt Plug Gnome.”

Now, a 20-foot version of the statue is in place at Ekebergparken in the Norwegian capital.
“Santa Claus is one of the biggest symbols of consumer culture. When I placed a buttplug in his hand it could have been a Christmas tree—not just a Brâncuși. It thereby suddenly exists on three levels,” McCarthy told broadcaster NRK prior to the unveiling of the Oslo statue, referring to Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncuși.

In 2014, McCarthy was slapped in the face and called “un-French” by a passerby in Paris after unveiling a work with a similar theme: a large tree with a striking resemblance to a sex toy. The Paris installation was vandalized and removed shortly afterwards.

The artist said he was unconcerned about any potential backlash over the sculpture in Oslo. “Some people are interested and like the idea; others don’t. I’m not so interested in the controversies as such. If the sculpture is wanted, keep it there. If not, move it. I find it hard to see why you should fight for it,” he said according to NRK’s report.

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.