Friday, May 14, 2010

The World’s Ugliest Statues

When bad art and bad politics meet.


"Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"  - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Renaissance man: This week, Senegal officially unveiled the African Renaissance Monument, a 160-foot statue of a man, woman, and child emerging from a volcano. The monument is meant to commemorate Senegal's 50 years of independence, but many see it as a monument to the vanity of 83-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade, who has made the $25 million statue his pet project. Religious groups have also condemned its pseudo-Soviet artistic style and the scantily clad female figure.

But Wade is hardly alone in his outsized ambition and dubious aesthetic sensibility. What follows are 10 more examples of why bad art and bad politics are a dangerous combination.

Round and round he goes: Saparmurat Niyazov, the late totalitarian leader of Turkmenistan, updated the old Soviet aesthetic with a little bit of Las Vegas excess. In 1998, he ordered the construction of this gold-plated statue of himself, which was placed at the top of a 244-foot tower in the center of the capital city of Ashgabat.  As if that weren't enough, the statue rotated throughout the day so that it was always facing the sun. The statue was the crowning achievement of Niyazov's attempt to establish a personality cult around himself that included renaming the months of the year after members of his family and replacing the Quran with the Ruhnama, a book of spiritual lessons written by him. After his death, the statue was taken from its perch and moved to a nearby suburb.

Peter the Terrible: Just because communism ended doesn't mean that Russia has stopped building grotesque, propagandistic statues. The master of the form is Georgian-born artist Zurab Tsereteli, best known for the garish 315-foot maritime statue of Peter the Great looming over the Moskva River. The statue was commissioned by Tsereteli's frequent booster, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and has fast become a popular tourist attraction, if not exactly for the reasons its planners hoped.,0

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