Sunday, 18 February 2007

Statues of strangeness

I saw a neat blog post recently on Gadling about a Serbian village that's put up a statue of

That's strange, but it's not the strangest statue I've ever seen. After all, Vilnius used to have a statue of Frank Zappa opposite the cathedral. (The statue's still in Vilnius, but it's been moved to a less high profile location, which is a pity.)

There's a Subirachs statue of a submarine near the Casa de les Punxes in Barcelona. That's not very strange but it's one of my all time favourites. I find Subirachs a very interesting artist - on one level his art is very approachable, with strong narrative drive, and then on the other he builds into it an incredible complexity of different references.

Barcelona has other statues that are slightly offbeat. There's a huge fat tom-cat in the Rambla near Sant-Pau de Camp, and I have no idea what he's doing there (apart from setting a bad example to those owners who won't get their cats snipped).

Rome has its own brand of strange statuary, the 'talking statues' which used to be covered in political satires. Pasquino, near Piazza Navona, still talks. There's a little man with a barrel near the Via del Corso, 'Madama Lucrezia' in Piazza Venezia (I wonder if she got her name because it rhymed?), and 'Abate Luigi' (probably a Roman emperor!) near Sant'Andrea della Valle.

London, I'm afraid, is a disaster. Nothing weird at all that I know off. Though there is a very nice Elizabeth Frink near Liverpool Street Station, in the Broadgate office complex, and another just off Piccadilly. Most of London's other statues are either boring, or pompous, or both.This might have changed - I've been intrigued and at times impressed by the statues put up on the 'spare' plinth in Trafalgar Square. Marc Quinn's 'Alison Lapper Pregnant' addressed two areas of life we never see in public sculpture - pregnancy and disability - and it had a fine dignity. Rachel Whiteread's abstract monument created a hollow and rather disturbing focus for the square, its white vacancy making a strong statement against the busy, highly figurative work of the rest of the area.

We're shortly to get a new sculpture, Thomas Schutte's 'Hotel for the Birds'. I'm looking forward to seeing its garish red and yellow perspex lattice take on the respectability of the square.

The Fourth Plinth project website notes "What pigeons will do to the material is not quite clear."

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