There’s a street in Nantes I’ve been calling “the penis street” all summer long.
Up till then, it was generally known as “that street between Place Royale and Cours des 50 Otages” or “rue d’Orléans”, but few of us can remember actual street names—unless they are famous, I have to check Google Maps when I write captions.
Let’s face it, “the penis street” is catchier and I may keep on calling it like that.
Anyway, it’s a busy street couple of a blocks from my mum’s apartment where at one point or another between 1994 and 2022, I remember buying a pair of shoes, a few fancy soaps at L’Occitane, t-shirts for Mark, and a red handbag I really love.
This year, the street is busier than usual, and it’s not just full of shoppers. Curious locals or tourists are taking it to check out the must-see 2023 Voyage à Nantes sculpture by Chinese artist Xu Chen.
The 14-metre-long and 5-metre-tall European Thousand-Arms Classical Sculpture features 19 archetypal Western figurative sculptures—including copies of a bronze Poseidon, the Apollo from the roof of Paris’ Palais Garnier, the Statue of Liberty, and a crucified Christ figure—turned into a single dancing bodhisattva. The artwork “challenges the traditional idea of cultural separation, suggesting that all of humanity is part of a single, absurd celebration.”
Now, unlike North Americans who self-disintegrate when they see boobs, Europeans usually understand that nudity isn’t inherently sexual. We’ve all seen plenty of free-standing classical sculptures and heroic nudity was a thing for a few centuries. I’m pretty sure there was a naked dude on the cover of my Grade 8 Latin textbook and we didn’t even joke about it as teens.
But still, this massive sculpture features a lot of male anatomy towering over the crowd and it tends to catch passersby by surprise.