There aren’t many objects in France’s overwhelmingly artistic capital we can accuse of sticking out like a sore thumb, but this one really takes the gateaux.
Crafted by legendary sculptor César Baldaccini – considered the ‘Warhol of France’ among commentators – this colossal digit known simply as ‘Le Pouce’ stands as a complete cultural counterpoint to the gleaming corporate buildings that surround it: a symbol of avant-garde originality in a world of administrative procedure.
Installed in La Défense (one of Paris’ foremost financial and business centres) in 1994, this particular moulding of César’s favourite extremity is the largest of its kind, though it shares its fame with many other smaller versions located around the world. Its maker considered the subject straightforwardly; as a very literal extension of his own hands and his chosen tools of the trade.
Cast in dark iron, the monument is only now starting to show signs of its 50 year existence, having first been fashioned in 1965. But while the tarnished quality on its surface may seem at odds with its sparkling and spotless backdrop, perhaps it was an outcome the artist intended on all along – a pointed message to the industrious business bods who pass by it every day.
Though it may not trigger the oohing and ahhing that other Parisian attractions draw from the mouths of their admirers, Le Pouce remains a delightfully eccentric departure from the well-worn tourist trail with its far too often photographed glass pyramids, gleaming towers and triumphal arches. It certainly gets two thumbs up from us.