I’m not sure who started the act of public art, but it has seemingly become a trend that validates cities, small towns, and towns acting as wannabe cities across the globe. They offer a unique tourist attraction, give places personality, and act as a great can’t-miss-it meeting spot for blind dates (just saying). Unfortunately, not all public art can live up to the Chicago Bean, the Statue of Liberty or Mt. Rushmore. Some public art gets weird sideways glances instead of obligatory selfies – but that doesn’t mean those underrated pieces aren’t deserving of a once over. Thankfully, I’ve done the research so you can cross seeing some of the lesser known masterpieces off of your bucket list (or at least your virtual bucket list):
Lego-Brucke (or Lego Bridge) – Martin Heuwold painted this awesome piece of throwback-inspired public art for the city of Wuppertal, Germany in 2011. Heuwold painted the concrete beam bridge to reflect the style of Lego bricks which caused a frenzy of media attention (naturally). The graffiti artist was awarded the Duestscher Fassadenpreis Advancement Prize in 2012. The project even got the thumbs up from Lego’s Danish manufacturer.
The Headington Shark – Although not in a public space, this art is easy for the public in Oxford, England to see. It is a rooftop sculpture situated atop a three-bedroom house at 2 New High St. Headington, Oxford. The shark was commissioned by Bill Heine, a local radio presenter in 1986 and completed by John Buckley and Anton Castiau. Alongside this odd addition to his home, Heine also wrote “The Hunting of the Shark,” where he explains the how and why of this strange art choice in addition to antics from his many battles with the Oxford City Council planners. The house has now gone through several different owners, including some who have been reported as loving the house and “all the fun that came with living in such a historic landmark.”
Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada – Amongst other interesting compositions, Lady Desert is a permanent part of the free-to-the public Goldwell Open Air Museum. The museum and this statue are situated about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the upper Mojave Desert. Belgian sculptor Hugo Heyrmen completed the art, inspired by computer pixels. The art itself is made out of cinder blocks.
Giant Wooden Clothespin: Originally a part of the Festival of Five Seasons in 2010, this piece of public art is located in Chaudfontaine Park in the outskirts of Liege, Belgium. The installation was designed by Turkish artist Mehmet Ali Uysal and appears to be hold on tightly to a section of land. Since its installation, the art has attracted the attention of tourists and passersby alike.
The Rubber Duck – The cool factor of this piece of public art isn’t limited to any particular city. The project is a series of giant floating sculptures made by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. According to Hofman himself, The Rubber Duck’s larger-than-life collection “knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate people and doesn’t have a political connotation.” So far, the beloved duck has made an appearance in places such as Beijing, Pittsburgh, Sydney, and Hong Kong. The project was initially meant to help “spread joy around the world” by evoking childhood memories.
Fremont Troll – What else would be under one of Seattle’s bridges? The Fremont Troll, also fondly referred to as “The Troll” or “Troll Under the Bridge” is a mixed media statue that calls 36th St. and the underside of the George Washington Memorial Bridge home. The piece of public art is a result of a competition sponsored by the Fremont Arts Council in the early 90s. Endearing parts of the scultpture include the troll’s hand clinging to a Volkswagon Beetle and his hubcap eye.
Le Pouce – There is not much hidden behind this interesting choice of public décor in the middle of Paris’ business sector. It is what it is and it’s basically a giant thumb. Built in 1965 by sculptor Cesar Baldaccini, the artwork is a reflection of every wrinkle of Baldaccini’s own finger. The statue is 40 feet tall and weighs more than 18 tons in total.
After taking a stroll around the Internet, it is clear to see that there are some under-appreciated (and selfie-deficient) pieces of public art out there that are just as bizarre, not quite as understated, and similarly out of place as the well-known bits that we have all grown to know and love (or at least tolerate). While I can’t say for certain what I would do in the presence of a enlarged thumb statue, I have an inkling that if I saw a colossal rubber duck, I just might have to whip out my smartphone and share it with the world. Conclusion: public art, known or unknown is weird but fantastic, end of story.