World's Strangest Statues
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.
Hand of the Desert, Atacama Desert, Chile
About 47 miles south of the town of Antofagasta, in a barren stretch of the Pan-American Highway in the Atacama Desert, a 36-foot-tall hand protrudes from the sand. It appears that a giant was buried in a sandstorm, but this isn’t a mirage. Mano de Desierto—or Hand of the Desert—was built in the early ‘80s by the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal. And it isn’t the only disturbing hand of Irarrázabal’s: Monument to the Drowned is a similar sculpture, rising from the ground near the beach in Punta del Este, a resort town in Uruguay.
Posankka, Turku, Finland
Posankka—an amalgamation of the Finnish words for “pig” and “duck”—is a 16-foot-tall cotton-candy-hued hybrid of a rubber duck and a marzipan pig. Created for a citywide environmental art project, the pig-duck is the brainchild of Alvar Gullichsen. According to the artist statement, the statue is a criticism of modern gene technology as well as a tribute to the city’s avant-garde tradition. His first idea for the project was an oil truck and industrial vacuum hybrid, called Bonk’s Atomic LLBH Succer, built to suck toxic waste from the Port of Turku and send it into outer space. Suddenly a pig-duck doesn’t sound so bizarre….
Two Lovers, Puerto Montt, Chile
Looking out over the bay in Puerto Montt in southern Chile, you’ll have two giant friends to keep you company. However, the morose lovers will probably be too caught up in their own emotions to pay attention to you. Maybe that’s why over the years the enormous couple has been marred by graffiti. Or maybe it’s just because the locals think the luridly colored statue is already an eyesore.
What a big baby! Miguelin is a 21-foot-tall electronically animated baby that breathes, blinks, and dreams. Created by Spanish movie director Isabel Coixet, the smiling blue-eyed baby drew millions of visitors to Spain’s pavilion at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Though the Expo closed in October, visitors can still catch Miguelin in action—it will be the centerpiece of the Shanghai Expo Museum, which opens in May 2012.
Man with Fish, Chicago
It makes sense for a statue of a fish to be on display in front of an aquarium. However, it doesn’t make sense for a statue of a giant man hugging a giant fish to be on display in front of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. There is no explanation for it, but visitors to the aquarium have been greeted by this oddity since 2001. The 12-foot-tall painted statue is a creation of contemporary German sculptor Stephan Balkenhol, who is known for his sculptures of expressionless humans.
The Statue of Liberation Through Christ, Memphis
In a frank disregard for the separation of church and state, this replica of the Statue of Liberty—a.k.a. the “Lord’s Lady Liberty,” erected in 2006 by the World Overcomers megachurch—holds the Ten Commandments under one arm. That’s not all; instead of a torch, she holds a cross high above her head, while the pedestal commands, “America Return to Christ.” While many locals find the 72-foot-tall statue ridiculous (and a waste of $260,000), many accept it as part of living in the Bible Belt.
Le Passe-Muraille, Paris
On a quiet street in Montmartre, you’ll be startled to see a man caught emerging from a wall. As you get closer, you realize it’s just a bronze statue. It is inspired by a short story “Le Passe-Muraille” (The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls) by Marcel Aymé, about a man who discovers he has a supernatural ability. He abuses his power to rob banks and eventually gets stuck inside of a wall.
Hanging Out, Prague
This statue has incited fear in passersby and many a phone call to the police. However, what appears to be a man about to fall to his death on the cobblestones below is actually a life-size fiberglass sculpture of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. One of the many controversial statues installed around Prague by Czech artist David Cerny, it was exhibited in Berlin, Stockholm, and London before finding its home in Prague’s Old Town.
Floralis Genérica, Buenos Aires
At eight o’clock every morning, this gigantic steel-and-aluminum flower blooms in the United Nations Plaza. Created by Argentinean architect Eduardo Catalano and installed in 2002, Floralis Genérica imitates the way ordinary flowers open and close to the movement of the sun—just on a much larger scale. Once fully opened—about 20 minutes later—the flower’s six metallic petals stretch 105 feet across, reflecting the pool of water in which it stands. At night, the flower closes up and glows red, reaching heights of 75 feet.
Peter the Great Statue, Moscow
Also known as the “300 Years of the Russian Fleet,” this bronze, stainless steel and copper statue has been controversial since construction began in 1996. One of the tallest outdoor statues in the world at over 300 feet, the statue depicts Peter the Great—infamously called Peter the Terrible—standing on top of a galleon stacked upon a series of other ships. If it looks a bit funny, that’s because sculptor Zurab Tsereteli originally intended it to be a statue of Christopher Columbus. When the Americas and Spain didn’t want it, Christopher’s head was lobbed off and replaced by Peter’s.