Erected last week at the left-wing paper’s offices in central Berlin, the plastic relief “Peace be with You” by Peter Lenk shows Bild boss Kai Diekmann spreading his legs as his mighty manhood stretches across five storeys before the tip turns into a rearing cobra.
His fleshy countenance is joined by other figures toting past headlines from Diekmann’s sensationalist paper including “Emasculated by the mother-in-law’s dachshund,” “Federal Court of Justice: Now everyone can say pecker” and “First goal scored with a penis!”
The unsubtle work of art is the latest round in the brutal editorial brawl between Die Tageszeitung (Taz) and Diekmann that started some seven years ago after editors at the scrappy leftist newspaper ran a satiric article claiming their colleague at Bild had undergone a failed penis extension operation.
Meant to highlight how Germany’s best-selling daily thrives by reporting on the misfortunes of others, Diekmann was understandably not amused. He sued and Die Tageszeitung was forced to expunge the piece from its archive.
Since then, the two sides have engaged in ongoing attempts to outdo each other. Diekmann, who works for the conservative publisher Axel Springer, landed a coup earlier this year by becoming a member of the co-operative that funds the Taz’s endowment.
However, he riled his “comrades” this autumn by posting the taboo penis article on a blog he’s been writing for Bild. But after pointing out a court had forbidden its publication, Taz staff apparently decided Diekmann’s privates had become part of the public domain and commissioned the artwork.
“The penis row from 2002 is slowly becoming the stuff of legend for the Taz – much to my satisfaction since it pushes along the boulevardisation of the Taz,” Diekmann told Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel this week.
Saying he didn’t plan to take legal recourse over the gigantic penis relief adorning the headquarters of his rival, Diekmann said the last word had not yet been spoken.
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“Apparently the artist got a free yearly subscription for it,” he said. “As a member of the cooperative, I’m naturally not happy about wasting a subscription. But I’ll certainly ask about the financing at the next co-op meeting.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the length of the provocative penis as six metres when it should have been sixteen metres. We apologise for the phallus fallacy.