Every day I walk past it on my way to work, staring up at its monstrous club foot threatening to trample me as I pass by on the sidewalk below. Every day as my S-Bahn arrives onto the platform at the Hauptbahnhof, it leers at me through the glass with it’s beady blue eye and gaping mouth and I just want to yell “What do you think you’re looking at, huh?!” And each day as I pass by the hideous 35 ton steel statue, “Rolling Horse” at the northeastern corner of the Hauptbahnhof I wonder how someone could make an animal as graceful and elegant as the horse into such a mechanical monster. However, in a city of over 3 million inhabitants, the truth is, when it comes to large-scale statues in public areas, my opinion really doesn’t matter.
Jürgen Goertz’s “Rolling Horse” at Berlin, Hauptbahnhof. Photo: Wiki Commons
There is an old song by American singer Rick Nelson called Garden Party which goes, “You see ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.” A simple statement – but one which I believe applies perfectly to artists commissioned to design sculptures for public areas. No matter what the work is, there will always be dissenting opinions which are why the unveiling of large-scale statues usually results in controversy. That is why, even though not everyone might like the art, the important thing is to make sure the public is informed and understands the idea behind it.
Just as “Rolling Horse” created a stir at it’s unveiling in 2007 with the German Association for Fine Arts actually labeling it an “abuse of public space,” the newest hot topic in the art world is Damien Hirst’s statue “Verity” which was unveiled in Ilfracombe last week. The 66ft tall sculpture depicts a naked pregnant woman raising a giant sword to the heavens with her skin partially peeled back to show her muscles and the unborn fetus in her stomach.
With any Hirst piece, the typical ‘shock and awe’ element is certainly not unexpected, however, the striking statue still created quite the controversy with some labeling the statue as obscene and even “grotesque.” As with any piece of art, I believe a lot of the criticism comes from a lack of understanding.
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