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
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

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.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?