The 10 Most Hated Public Sculptures

Yes, we went there.

On the left, the new statue of Nefertiti that so enraged locals, on the right, the original iconic bust of the Egyptian Queen. Photo via Twitter.
On the left, the new statue of Nefertiti that so enraged locals, on the right, the original iconic bust of the Egyptian Queen. Photo via Twitter.

Public sculpture is a hot topic, and a huge challenge to any artist saddled with the task of catering for a huge range of tastes. It’s safe to say a public sculpture won’t please everyone. Yet, these works compiled below managed to please nobody (which is an achievement in itself, sort of).

From the ill-thought out to the ridiculous, we take a look back at times when public sculpture hit a bum note with those it meant to please, occasionally with fatal results (for the sculpture).

1.Ugly Nefertiti
This yellow monolith (see image above) is unquestionably a monstrosity. Not in small part due to the fact that the huge, pale, yellow sculpture is meant to represent one of the most beautiful woman to ever have lived.

After the statue went up last year in the town of Samalut, Egypt, the locals daubed it with something suspicious and lodged a number of complaints, leading the offending artwork to be removed from view, amid a hail of ridiculing internet memes.

Oliviero Rainaldi's Pope John Paul II. Photo GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Oliviero Rainaldi’s Pope John Paul II. Photo GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images.

2. Creepy papal statue, rejected by the Vatican
Oliviero Rainaldi’s rendering of Pope John Paul II, first unveiled in 2011, drew a highly negative response from both local Romans, who passed by the statue on a daily basis, and from admirers of the beloved pontiff.

People felt that the huge faceless statue of the now sainted Pope John Paul II, holding his cape open in a gesture of warmth, was too stern and impersonal. Rainaldi was forced back to the drawing board, after even the Vatican rejected his vision, with in house art critic Sandro Barbagallo branding it “a sin.”

Even after the alterations were made, onlookers were still unconvinced.

“It’s not him. It’s not him,” an onlooker told the Daily Mail. “He was joyful. He was nothing like this here. For me it still looks like a refrigerator.”

The statue in question in situ at Guildhall Art Gallery .Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The statue in question in situ at Guildhall Art Gallery. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

3. The controversial statue of Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher’s legacy is a tricky one, as she is loved abroad for becoming the UK’s first female Prime Minister and loathed by many at home for her actions while in power.

When an eight-foot-tall, life-like marble statue of Thatcher went on view at Guildhall Art Gallery in London—unveiled by Thatcher herself in 1998—there were many complaints. However, no one expected theatre director Paul Kelleher to creep in and whack its head off with a baseball bat.

The hated effigy was then hidden away in a corner at the Guildhall to keep it out of harm’s way, but was later offered to the Museum of Grantham, in the late British leader’s home town, although they felt the statue might be in danger of further violence there too, so it’s now “off view.”

Jean-Pierre Raynaud’s Dialogue with History, leveled... Photo via Twitter.

Jean-Pierre Raynaud’s Dialogue with History, leveled… Photo via Twitter.

4. Quebec’s “Toilet”, demolished after a long campaign by locals          
Jean-Pierre Raynaud’s Dialogue with History (1987) was gifted to the city of Quebec by French President Jacques Chirac. The minimal work, comprised of a series of white cubes was meant to commemorate the arrival of French settlers in Canada, but the work jarred with locals due to its inability to fit in with its 18th century surroundings.

Nicknamed “the Cube,” “Rubik’s Cube,” “the Fridge,” and the aforementioned “Toilet,” the work was publicly demolished last year, while onlookers celebrated via social media.

Raynaud hoped that the sculpture would be re-installed elsewhere but the manner in which the work was leveled put a stop to the idea.

A rendering of Ohad Meromi's Sunbather. Photo via LIC Post.

A rendering of Ohad Meromi’s Sunbather.

5. “Pink poop,” the proposed public gift so loathed that brought on new legislation
The saga stemming from Ohad Meromi’s installation Sunbather started when the florescent pink reclining figure nicknamed “Gumby” was announced for the junction of Long Island City at Jackson Avenue and 43rd Avenue.

The total cost of putting the eight-foot-tall work in place was estimated at $515,000, causing a public outrage so intense that a new bill was put forward to prevent unwanted artwork ever being installed in New York again.

The new law proposed greater public consultation on projects run by Percent for Art, an initiative that uses 1 percent of the city’s budget to commission a public artwork.

Anish Kapoor and Carsten Höller pose for photographers in front of London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit tower on April 26. Photo: Rob Stothard/Getty Images.

Anish Kapoor and Carsten Höller pose for photographers in front of London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit tower on April 26, 2016. Photo Rob Stothard/Getty Images.

6. Anish Kapoor’s Olympic nightmare, turned into a gigantic slide
When Anish Kapoor’s commission for the Olympic Park in London was unveiled no one really noticed, as most viewers thought it was still under construction.

Orbit confused viewers for sometime, but when they realized that the twisted metal structure in place was indeed an artwork they were up in arms.

To appease Londoners, ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson brought in Carsten Höller to add a slide to the 114.5-meter-tall artwork, making it the highest slide in Europe. Kapoor later said he was pushed into the high profile collaboration by Johnson.

Donna Dodson, Seagull Cinderella.

Donna Dodson, Seagull Cinderella.

7. The cartoonish seagull that horrified people on a local art walk
Seagull Cinderella by Donna Dodson was installed as part of the annual Seaport Art Walk in New Bedford, Massachusetts. While some residents quite liked the light-hearted sculpture, others decried it as a hybrid beast, with one commentator taking to Twitter to solemnly declare: “Yo that’s a seagull with boobs.”

A petition is currently underway to have the offending item removed.

Frank Stella, <i>Amabel</i>. Photo courtesy POSCO Art Collection

Frank Stella, Amabel. Photo courtesy POSCO Art Collection.

8. The Frank Stella sculpture that shocked art lovers in Seoul
A law in South Korea requires all new large scale development to be accompanied by an artwork worth at least one percent of its value. This is how Amabel by Frank Stella ended up going on view in a central square in the city.

Some felt it looked as though an airplane had crashed, while others thought that the 30-feet-tall work was just plain ugly. The work, perhaps not one of Stella’s best, has become a minor blog sensation due to how annoyed residents are at it.

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John Henry Chevron. Photo Snejana Iordanova via Flickr.

9. The Chevron, just too big (for a front garden)
When a local businessman installed Chevron in his front garden, his neighbors were outraged due to its enormous size. Said neighbors sued and won, meaning that the owner was forced to loan the work to Chicago’s Lincoln Park for a year.

Yet, John Henry’s Chevron may yet return to its previous domestic setting, if its owner manages to sway the courts. In which case the saga will surely continue.

Botched David Bowie mural. Photo via Twitter.

Botched David Bowie mural. Photo via Twitter.

10. Bad Bowie 
This artwork is not a sculpture, but we feel it deserves a place of honor on the list due to the sheer level of public ire that came its way.

When David Bowie died earlier this year, the world mourned. The icon of music, performance, film, and fashion was lauded through art, music, and in the press by thousands.

Then there was this (see above). A botched mural in tribute to the singer, which went up overnight in Sheffield and has been ridiculed ever since. And it still stands, to fans’ chagrin.


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