From big blue bears to 178m long slides
The great thing about public art is that everyone can enjoy it free of charge. Unless, that is, it's halfway across the world. Luckily, with Street View you can explore public art sculptures all over the globe, right now.
Flamingo by Alexander Calder, Chicago
In front of Chicago’s Federal Plaza, standing starkly in vermillion red against the backdrop of corporate-looking buildings, you can find Alexander Calder’s 53-foot tall, abstract sculpture Flamingo. Installed in 1974, the stationary sculpture is known as a stabile, contrasting to Calder's reputation as the originator of the mobile, a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes.
ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor, London
Reaching a grand height of 114.5 meters tall, you can be forgiven for forgetting this towering structure (with built in observation platform) is a sculpture designed by a Turner-Prize-winning artist. The work of Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, Britain's largest piece of public art-cum-structural-engineering was built for the 2012 London Olympic Games, and was subsequently re-imagined in 2016 with a permanent slide twisting around it, designed by German artist Carsten Höller. Unfortunately you can't whizz down the slide on Street View...
Sólfar by Jón Gunnar Árnason, Reykjavik
Sólfar, or Sun Voyager, is a public sculpture commemorating the 200th anniversary of Iceland's capital city. According to the artist, Icelandic sculptor Jón Gunnar Árnason, the ship is an ode to the sun and 'symbolizes the promise of new, undiscovered territory' - not a Viking ship, which is what most people presume. It sits on the Reykjavik coastline, with its curved lines giving it the appearance of floating on the air.
Cupid's Span by Claes Oldenburg, San Francisco
Claes Oldenburg is renowned for his larger-than-life sculptures of everyday objects. While Cupid’s bow may not be an everyday object (although it would be nice to think it is), Oldenburg’s Cupid’s Span, made with his wife Coosje Van Bruggen, certainly is larger than life at 60-foot high. Positioned along the eastern waterfront of the San Francisco bay, the sculpture was “inspired by San Francisco's reputation as the home port of Eros”, who was the Greek version of the Roman god Cupid. According to the artists, it could also represent the arrow being shot into the Earth to make it fertile.
Angel of the North by Antony Gormley, Tyneside
Standing at 20-meters high, with wings measuring 54 meters across, the Angel of the North stands on the hill of Birtley, overlooking the A1 and A167 roads in Tyneside - making it quite an imposing sight from the motorway. The sculpture was built to withstand winds of over 100mph due to its exposed location. According to Gormley it represents the coal miners who worked beneath the land it stands on, the transition from the age of industry to the age of information, and is also a symbol of our hopes and fears.
Sibelius Monument by Eila Hiltunen, Helsinki
Finland's Sibelius Monument is dedicated to one of the country's most beloved composers, Jean Sibelius. The sculpture consists of a cluster of around 600 stainless steel tubes of differing dimensions, weighing a total of 30 tons. The artist, Eila Hiltunen, then hand-textured the outer surface with a welding torch - resulting in chronic bronchial asthma from the toxic fumes. A smaller version of the monument can be found at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
I See What You Mean by Lawrence Argent, Denver
Normally it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience to look up and see a bear peering through your window, but that’s not the case with Lawrence Argents I See What You Mean. A 40-foot-high ‘Big Blue Bear’ staring into the Colarado Convention Centre, the sculpture acts as a great invitation to curiosity - what’s going on in there that’s good enough to peek at? The sculpture is also a symbol of the nature surrounding the city, with Denver lying on the outskirts of the Rocky Mountains (where hopefully the bears are a lot smaller).
The Kelpies by Andy Scott, Falkirk
In Falkirk, Scotland, you can marvel at The Kelpies: two 30-meter high horse-head sculptures rearing out of the ground to form a gateway to the Forth and Clyde canal. Designed by sculptor Andy Scott, the horses emulate the mythical shape-shifting water spirit that is said to inhabit the lochs and pools of Scotland, normally appearing as a horse, and also serve to celebrate the significant role of horses in industry and agriculture.