Strange statues can exert a strange power—namely, to draw in lots of gawkers. At least, that’s what happened with the 21-foot-tall, electronically animated baby at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. This colossal child—on display at Spain’s pavilion—attracted millions of visitors, who gaped at this realistic yet bizarre creation that can breathe, blink, and smile.
While many statues commemorate a significant moment in history or an extraordinary life, other oddities exist for, well, other reasons. Some wacky statues revel in traditions of the avant-garde. Others simply grab people’s attention.
Still other strange statues serve a higher purpose, or even a higher power. In 2006, a Memphis megachurch erected a 72-foot-tall, cross-wielding replica of the Statue of Liberty to compel American citizens to “return to Christ.” Several things separate her from the symbol of America’s liberty, including a tablet of the Ten Commandments, a “Jehovah”-inscribed crown, and a single tear on her face (signifying America’s increasing godlessness, says the church). Many Memphis locals find “Lord’s Lady Liberty” ludicrous and an uncomfortable blend of church and state.
In fact, strange statues are often controversial with the people who are forced to look at them on a day-to-day basis. But often, people learn to accept them as a marker of their city’s distinctive character. In Turku, Finland, controversy erupted over where to place a 16-foot-tall hybrid of a rubber duck and a marzipan pig that artist Alvar Gullichsen originally wanted to float in the Port of Turku. Yet the porcine bird is now beloved by most locals and treated as an unofficial mascot of the city. He even gets a red Santa hat to wear during the holidays.
For whatever purpose the statues were created, these outlandish creations are often worth the detour, as they can help travelers get to know a place through its quirky customs and creative local artists.