Supersize art: The Kelpies in Falkirk

The Kelpies are the latest addition to Britain's growing army of enormous sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?

Britain's newest super-sized sculptures arrive this week. The Kelpies are an intriguing pair of giant horse heads in Falkirk that will make any car journey up the M9 infinitely more interesting. At 30m tall and 300 tons, they are the largest equine sculptures on Earth.

Birmingham is shopping for a new chunk of civic art, Sheffield hopes to install its huge Man of Steel next year, Mark Wallinger's enormous white horse for Kent is still on the drawing board, and Anish Kapoor's Orbit in east London recently re-opened. Britain likes it big. But, for the council committees commissioning them, is it more about re-branding a place than a love of art?

"I'm not entirely sure," says Andy Scott, the affable sculptor of The Kelpies. "It's a hell of a risky way to re-brand. Any council or civic authority would have to be very certain that it would work in their favour."

Public art is mainstream now, but it hasn't always been the norm. The monument that shifted attitudes was Anthony Gormley's Angel of The North, which opened in 1998, and become both a symbol of the North-east and of how Britain finally fell for sculpture.

Some places are luckier than others when it comes to their over-sized art: St Ives has beautiful Barbara Hepworths dotted about, while nearby Ilfracombe has Damien Hirst's Verity – a pregnant woman torn open.

Sculpture, even if – as critics of Verity or Orbit would argue – it's not very good, at least brings art into people's lives. But super-sized sculpture is already all around us, in unexpected places. Gateshead had one before the Angel – its acclaimed Dunston Rocket tower block, which it tore down in 2012. Sheffield had its Tinsley cooling towers, which it blew up, and in whose footprint Man of Steel will sit instead. Tower blocks and industrial structures have become unfashionable. They lack the touristy sheen that image-conscious British towns of today want. Yet Anthony Gormley loves a cooling tower. He told the BBC's Omnibus in 2000 that: "Something like that is incredibly inspiring. It's better than a cathedral."

Big sculpture has a long history. "The construction of large public sculpture has always been there, from the Ancient Egyptians to the present day," says Peter Murray, director of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, home to a flock of Henry Moores. As with many observers, Murray wants more art and less PR from this wave of British mega structures: "What I hope for is a greater concern with scale, artistic context and integrity, rather than [sculpture as] a means of promoting regeneration."

Birmingham is the latest city on the hunt for a super-sized sculpture. It already has a giant Gormley of its own, Iron: Man in Victoria Square. But Gormley fell out with the city fathers after saying in the same Omnibus film that: "I think the Square is appalling, a monument to Thatcherite Britain... it was very, very important to me that I made something that had absolutely nothing to do with that kind of shit."

Despite this disconnect between civic showing-off and artistic temperament, Brum has been mulling a return for Nic Munro's giant pop-art King Kong. A new film about the sculpture's life is in production, charting its journey from the old Bull Ring in 1972 to a car park in Penrith – where it sits poised for a potential return to the Midlands. As grand statements go, it's certainly a big one.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy