UN Culture body takes down nude elephant ad

Image copyright Al Bello Image caption The latest campaign, ‘House of Gucci’ , is a homage to the house’s creative director Alessandro Michele

The United Nations’ cultural agency is making a U-turn after it used a statue of a frumpy elephant and supermodels in its latest advertising campaign to celebrate its new African headquarters.

The statue of a pregnant Asian elephant was meant to be a modern day tribute to a sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

But many human rights groups called the statue, designed by Italian architect Rem Koolhaas, a racist.

They had urged the UN to withdraw the campaign and make a donation to an African charity.

Image copyright Sean Kelley Image caption (L-R) South Africa’s Vusi Mahlasela and his countrywoman Andreea Diaconu, Chile’s Leticia Barrios, and Central African Republic’s Adrien de Menezes sit with their friends on cuban ‘Gucci’ chairs

The elephant’s look-alike in the campaign, which was made up of more than 20 photos posted on the UN website in mid-December, is a model for a “House of Gucci” garden sitting at the UN’s Dakar headquarters in Senegal.

South African Vusi Mahlasela and Angola’s Andreea Diaconu sit on their countryman’s trademark Gucci chair next to two women of the Central African Republic.

Image copyright Sean Kelley Image caption Male models sit on the seats favoured by Gucci designers © Sean Kelley

The rest of the campaign is a tribute to the UN’s new office, which features floor-to-ceiling glass walls, an open plan office, offices on four levels and 23 contemporary wood and glass buildings.

Museum supporters

UN museum ambassador Marie Letup-Becker, who is also a Museums Society Africa chief executive, told the BBC she welcomed the photoshoot because it highlighted aspects of the UN’s most famous museums.

“It is very important that we, as human rights advocates, would appeal to the creative minds behind the messages being communicated, to use their fame to change these mindsets about the monuments and buildings that are the temples of the human experience,” she said.

But later on Tuesday the editor of the decision-making body of the United Nations Cultural Organization (Unesco) rejected suggestions that the campaign might have offended.

In a statement the director of the Governing Council said the light-hearted nature of the image, which he said was a touch on local humour, should have prevented any criticism.

When some social media users expressed their outrage, they drew inspiration from 1960s war movies, which gave the idea a sickly shade of what is depicted as a realistic obese elephant being consoled by a surly band of musicians.

Others meanwhile suggested the statue of Asia’s iconic sweet, teacup, seemed to have been replaced by miniature, paper-thin teddy bears.

The UN has featured similarly soft targets in its advert, which has also used photos of celebrated international artists such as Andy Warhol and Matisse.

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