(CNN)When the Serbian city of Kikinda unveiled its latest landmark, the reaction was mixed, to say the least.
'Phallic' owl statue sparks outrage in Serbia
The 8-foot terracotta statue of an owl was intended to celebrate the city's status as a favored destination among bird-watchers, who flock to view the world's largest roosting population of long-eared owls.
But locals say the artwork, created by local sculptor Jovan Blat, looks more like a phallus than a bird. Some took to social media to express their outrage, with one branding the statue a "complete failure."
"This doesn't look like an owl. God save me, whoever approved this has no eyes," one person wrote on the original Facebook post announcing the statue's unveiling.
"People, I love owls and I love the city but this sculpture is a pure failure," wrote another.
While a third added: "Get this thing out of Serbia. Shame."
Others stood up for the statue. "Come on people, I love art and I think the statue is really nice," one Facebook user said.
Blat told Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti that he had not intended to create an exact copy of an owl, but rather a "stylized sculpture" with an "elongated, tubular body."
"It is clear ... that everyone does not understand contemporary art," he lamented, but he admitted that he had "some technical limitations."
The sculptor also said he was willing to create a new sculpture for the city in the wake of the criticism.
This offer was dismissed by Zeljko Bodrozic, editor of the local newspaper, who said the statue had become a symbol in its own right and should remain in place.
"With all the hype swirling around it ... in a way it also becomes a symbol of our city," he said.
Nearly 10,000 miles away, Australians are drawing parallels between Blat's creation and Canberra's infamous owl statue, designed by Bruce Armstrong and erected in 2011.
The Australian statue, also accused of penile resemblance, has been a target for vandals and even gained its own Facebook page.
Armstrong said in 2016 that he never intended the statue to be interpreted as anything other than an owl.