For one day last month, a new sculpture by eL Seed appeared in front of Italy's landmark Duomo of Milan. The colour of the late afternoon sky on a cloudless day, the artwork read "hob", which is Arabic for "love".
By the end of the day, it was gone.
“That’s the essence of my work – that it’s ephemeral,” says the Tunisian-French artist, who works in Dubai. “It’s there for one week, one day, one hour. And after that a souvenir stays in your mind.”
The work was part of eL Seed's show Templates of Love, which closed in April, at the city's Galleria Patricia Armocida, but he shared it for the first time with the public on social media last week.
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The exhibition explored the fact that the Arabic language has 50 ways of saying "love", which eL Seed painted on canvas in his abstracted, open approach to calligraphy. The blue sculpture, made in fibreglass and depicting the Arabic letters for "h" and "b" in a winding teardrop shape, was the centrepiece of the room.
The project investigating these different terms of affection had originally been much larger, with a public and international component.
"Love is such a universal thing and we wanted to see how it could be expressed in different cultures, like in Senegal, Japan, Panama and Italy," eL Seed recalls. "But because of Covid restrictions, we couldn't do it."
The sculpture, also called Template of Love, was sold to a private collector, but eL Seed and his team arranged for it to be installed in front of the majestic Duomo for one last outing.
“The cathedral took six centuries to build – it’s really a labour of love. This was a tribute to that,” he explains. “And the conversation between the Duomo’s Gothic architecture features and the modern calligraphy worked really well.”
Though the work was visible at the cathedral on May 21, eL Seed only posted a picture of it there on Instagram last Wednesday, allowing fans outside Italy to enjoy his new work.
The delayed unveiling of the sculpture online has meant it's garnered an unexpected resonance. The image now has almost 15,000 likes on the platform, and eL Seed says many people have asked how they can see it in real life.
His post coincides with the start of the UEFA European Football Championship, and so a number of people have also asked the artist if the sculpture's cerulean blue colour was an homage to Inter Milan.
“I thought, too much football,” he says, jokingly. “I don’t want to always put meaning behind it. People can interpret it in their own way – I always find that interesting. But I’m sure if people support AC Milan they would be mad. I have to make a red and black one [the colours of AC Milan] now, too.”