Venice removed a controversial white statue of a naked boy holding a frog by US sculptor Charles Ray from the entrance of the Grand Canal on Wednesday, sparking criticism from art lovers.
The 2.4-metre high statue, commissioned by French billionaire collector Francois Pinault, will be replaced with a copy of a 19th-century lamp-post which used to stand on the spot and was much loved by residents of the floating city.
The sculpture was outside Punta della Dogana, a former customs house that is now a contemporary art museum housing Pinault's rich collection.
The decision was slammed by art critic Francesco Bonami in La Stampa daily as an refusal to embrace modern art: "the poor boy's only sin is that he is contemporary," he said.
The boy, who gazes at the frog pinched between his fingers with a mixture of curiosity, fear and loathing according to earlier interviews with Ray, has occupied the tip of land which faces St. Mark's Square for four years.
But locals said the sculpture marred what was once a romantic meeting point for the young in love.
Ray had said he hoped the boy, which fast became a top attraction for snap-happy tourists in the northern city, would make Venice its permanent home.
The council denied the statue was being taken down under pressure, saying it had always been a temporary exhibition. It was not clear where the statue would end up.