Features

Top 10 places with bad public art

August 28, 2011

Visitors can look directly up “Forever Marilyn’s” skirt. — Reuters picVisitors can look directly up “Forever Marilyn’s” skirt. — Reuters picLONDON, Aug 28 — Whether publicly funded or privately obtained public art can be as controversial as it is indefinable.

Members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com have some very strong opinions which helped them come up with the top 10 pieces of bad public art. Reuters has not endorsed this list.

1. “Forever Marilyn” Seward Johnson; Chicago, Illinois

Detractors have found so many things to criticise about this work that it’s hard to know where to start: its 7.9-metre scale, its impropriety given that the movie to which it pays tribute is set in New York, and its perceived crudeness given that viewers are able to look directly up the screen siren’s dress. Luckily, she’ll only be there until 2012.

Sculptures of dairy cows painted in the colours of the flags of EU member states stand in a meadow outside Zurich. — Reuters picSculptures of dairy cows painted in the colours of the flags of EU member states stand in a meadow outside Zurich. — Reuters pic2. “Cow Parade” — Certainly these painted fibreglass cows had a certain charm when they first started popping up unexpectedly in various cities, but now it seems the world has had its fill. A few too many incarnations of this idea changed admiration to contempt.

3. Mary Tyler Moore Statue; Minneapolis, Minnesota

Perhaps the real Mary Tyler Moore can turn the world on with her smile, but this statue certainly can’t. Looking more like a woman spinning a basketball on her finger than one throwing her hat in the air, she might not even be identifiable were it not for the plaque at the base.

4. “Lifesaver” Niki de Saint Phalle; Duisburg, Germany

It seems the only nice word critics of this piece are willing to use is “bright.” Unfortunately there are other words they also use to describe this hard-to-figure-out, multi-coloured, frenetic piece.

5. “The Calling” Mark di Suvero; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The subject of debate for many, many reasons, these orange beams of steel inspire a “Really?” in many who view it. Said to represent both the sun as well as the grit of workers who built the town, its simplicity engenders more criticism than praise.

6. “Winkler Prins Monument” Anthony Winkler Prins; Amsterdam

Resembling a screw without a top, this giant pole has about as much charm as well, a screw without a top. Constructed in 1970, the towering cylinder of 54 stacked disks is a blight against the graceful trees by which it resides.

Mary Tyler Moore meets Mary Tyler Moore. — Reuters picMary Tyler Moore meets Mary Tyler Moore. — Reuters pic7. “Magic Carpet Ride” (“Cardiff Kook”) Matthew Antichevich; Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California

This lovely California beach town takes great pride in its extraordinary ocean views, making it all the more peculiar that residents would allow something like this bronze surfer dude to remain in their midst. Having become something of a local joke the statue is constantly being dressed up to resemble everything from Vincent Van Gogh to Uncle Sam.

8. “Caliope” Joe Slusky; Berkeley, California

Difficult though it may be to believe, this tribute to the 1980s aesthetic actually used to be an even bigger eyesore. The geometric pieces that make up the work and are painted in purples, reds, and yellows, used to be painted with smaller geometric shapes in equally outdated tones. Thank goodness for progress.

9. “Monument With Standing Beast” Jean Dubuffet; Chicago

This ten-tonne behemoth is said to represent an animal, a portal, a tree, and an architectural form, but to some it just represents bad taste.

10. Bewitched Statue; Salem, Massachusetts

The 2.7 metre bronze makes actress Elizabeth Montgomery look almost greasy. Interestingly criticism of the piece ignited long before it was installed as Salem residents objected to a statue of a witch being erected in a place where people were once killed for purported witchcraft. — Reuters

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