10 Unintentionally Horrifying Statues of Famous People

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Having a statue erected in your likeness sounds like it would be an honor. But when the end result leaves you looking terrifying for all eternity, it's worth considering that sometimes it's not the thought that counts. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo learned that lesson the hard way back in March when a bust made in his not-so-likeness was unveiled at Madeira International Airport, to celebrate the airport's new name: Aeroporto Cristiano Ronaldo. Fortunately for Ronaldo, a new and improved bust was just revealed:

Not every celebrity has been so lucky.

1. LUCILLE BALL // CELORON, NEW YORK

This statue in the beloved comedian's hometown became a source of rancor when it was first erected in 2009. "Scary Lucy," as she quickly became known, even inspired an online campaign "We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue." As it turns out, everyone thought the statue was an abomination—even the man responsible. In 2015, artist Dave Poulin issued a public apology saying, "I take full responsibility for 'Scary Lucy,' though by no means was that my intent or did I wish to disparage in any way the memories of the iconic Lucy image." Earlier this year, tired of the ongoing conversation about "Scary Lucy," Poulin retired from sculpting altogether. His public admission that the statue really was awful paid off. In 2016, a new statue—this one created by Carolyn Palmer, who beat out more than 65 sculptors in a national competition to create the upgraded Lucy—was unveiled.

2. KURT COBAIN // ABERDEEN, WASHINGTON

In Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, the late singer's February 20th birthday is "Kurt Cobain Day." As part of the initial festivities, the town unveiled this somber statue of the singer, which notably features a single tear. Artist Randi Hubbard began work on the sculpture shortly after Cobain's death in 1994. Sometime in the past two decades, she'd offered the work to the city who, at the time, refused. Their conviction has since wavered.

3. ARTHUR ASHE // RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

Arthur Ashe Statue

rvaphotodude, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1996, Arthur Ashe's hometown of Richmond erected a statue in his likeness on Monument Avenue, despite controversy that a sculpture of the tennis great didn't belong alongside the existing congregation of Confederate icons. But the bronze memorial, cast by Paul di Pasquale, is bizarre for more than just its location. In an attempt to capture Ashe's dedication to social activism, he is shown holding books and a tennis racket high above the outstretched arms of a gaggle of children, frozen forever in a state of seemingly mocking them for their lack of height.

4. JAMES DEAN // LOS ANGELES

View of a statue of James Dean at the Griffith Observatory
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

James Dean himself commissioned the bust that stands as his memorial at the site of several key scenes from Rebel Without a Cause. But perhaps because artist Kenneth Kendall began work the night Dean died, the actor ended up looking downtrodden. In 1988—33 years after Dean's death—Kendall donated the sculpture to the Griffith Observatory.

5. WALTER JOHNSON // WASHINGTON, D.C.

Walter Johnson Statue in washington DC

Wally Gobetz, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

"It just doesn't work," Walter Johnson's grandson and biographer, Henry Thomas, said of the attempt to show motion in his grandfather's statue. The multi-armed likeness of the late Hall of Fame pitcher, the work of sculptor Omri Amrany, was erected outside Nationals Park in 2009.

6. OSCAR WILDE // LONDON

Oscar Wilde statue in London

Drinks Machine, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

In a sculpture by Maggi Hambling, the bust of the brilliant Irish author rises out of a sarcophagus-style block. As if that wasn't creepy enough, his mangled bronze features actually look like something that has risen from the dead.

7. ST. BARTHOLOMEW // MILAN

The statue of St. Bartholomew presiding over the Milan Cathedral

carolyn_gifford, Flickr // CC BY NC-2.0

The oldest statue on this list was cast by Marco d'Agrate in 1562 to honor the only saint to have been skinned alive. And if you're an artist, how could you pass up a graphic opportunity like that? The statue of St. Bartholomew presiding over the Milan Cathedral is not only skinless, he is literally carrying his own skin, identifiable by the face and feet on either end.

8. FRANZ KAFKA // PRAGUE

In the Jewish Quarter of Prague, where Franz Kafka spent most of his life, a sculpture by Jaroslav Rona stands as a memorial to the influential author—or to giant, headless, handless, well-dressed men everywhere. A miniature Kafka sits perched on the shoulders of an ominous empty suit that looks to be lumbering toward the viewer.

9. SAINT WENCESLAS // PRAGUE

In Wenceslas Square, a statue of the eponymous patron saint of Bohemia is shown, in typical form, atop a gallant steed. Inside Lucerna Palace mere yards from the original, a parody of this statue by David Černý also depicts Saint Wenceslas and a horse. Only this time the horse is upside down—and dead. If the juxtaposition doesn't freak you out, the lolling horse tongue will.

10. MICHAEL JACKSON // LONDON

Michael Jackson Statue in London
Ian Walton/Getty Images

This slightly smirking, colorful rendition of the late King of Pop was actually deemed so creepy—and controversial—that it was removed in 2013. The former owner and chairman of the Fulham football team, Mohamed Fayed, commissioned the statue, which stood outside the Craven Cottage stadium from 2011 through late 2013 when new owner, American businessman Shahid Khan, heeded the public opinion and had the statue removed and returned to Fayed.

Tim Burton’s Art Exhibition at Las Vegas’s Neon Museum Now Has Tickets On Sale

A Tim Burton sculpture representative of what might be on display at the Neon Museum
A Tim Burton sculpture representative of what might be on display at the Neon Museum
The Vox Agency

Last year, The Neon Museum in Las Vegas announced that it would be hosting an exhibition of fine art by Tim Burton in 2019. Anticipation has been high ever since: The Vegas show will mark the filmmaker's first major art exhibition in the United States since his work was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York a decade ago. Now, tickets for the October event are finally on sale.

Tim Burton is best known as the director of such movies as Batman (1989), Beetlejuice (1988), and Edward Scissorhands (1990), but he got his start as an artist. His distinct drawing style even got him a job at Disney's animation division in the early 1980s.

The Neon Museum exhibition will feature works that have been displayed previously, as well as sculptures and digital installations created specifically for the space. A press release reads: "The presentation of Burton’s art in Las Vegas represents a unique experience where the host institution also serves as creative inspiration. The museum’s distinctive campus will be transformed through the artist’s singular vision for this original exhibition."

Pieces will be displayed at three locations across the museum campus: the outdoor Neon Boneyard (a "graveyard" for old neon signs), the North Gallery, and the City of Las Vegas’s Boneyard Park. In addition to the main show, there will be a separate, special exhibit after dark that combines projection mapping with the site's famous sign collection. As for the content of the artwork, the museum says Burton is looking to both his career history and the museum itself for inspiration. Although the museum wasn't ready to release images of specific artwork that will be featured in the show, they released some representative images.

"Lost Vegas: Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum Presented by the Engelstad Foundation” launches October 15, 2019, and will run through February 15, 2020. Tickets to the primary exhibit cost $30, and entrance to the nighttime spectacle will cost an extra $24. You can preorder tickets to both shows here.

A Tim Burton sculpture representative of what will be on display at the Neon Museum
A Tim Burton sculpture representative of what might be on display at the Neon Museum
The Vox Agency

A Tim Burton sculpture representative of what will be on display at the Neon Museum.
A Tim Burton sculpture representative of what might be on display at the Neon Museum
The Vox Agency

Edward Hopper’s Western Motel Is Being Turned Into a Hotel Room at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Western Motel, 1957, Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967), oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, B.A., 1903. © 2019 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Western Motel, 1957, Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967), oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, B.A., 1903. © 2019 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Some paintings are so good you can’t help but wish you could climb right inside of them and experience the details with all five senses, in all three dimensions. If Edward Hopper’s Western Motel brings about those sorts of feelings for you, now is your chance to live that dream.

As part of an exhibition called “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel,” Artnet News reports that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is constructing a real, live motel room modeled on the artwork that you can actually book for a night.

Much like Nighthawks and Hopper's other paintings, 1957’s Western Motel isn’t exactly a warm and cozy depiction of the hospitality industry. The featured room—which is furnished with two sturdy red sofas, a chair, a small table, and a reedy lamp—is so neat it seems almost characterless. A well-dressed woman with impeccable posture perches atop a couch, looking expectant. It evokes the sense of alienation that permeated so many of Hopper’s influential pieces focused on life in the modern world: lonely people hunched over tables and gazing out windows, failing to connect with their surroundings in a way that makes you, the viewer, uncomfortably aware of your own static energy.

While pieces like Western Motel seem to hint that Hopper himself was something of a gloomy introvert, exhibition curator Dr. Leo G. Mazow hopes that "Edward Hopper and the American Hotel" will set the record straight. The exhibition "endeavors to consider hotels, motels, and other transient dwellings as vital subject matter for Hopper and as a framework with which to understand his entire body of work," Mazow stated in a press release.

In addition to 60 of Hopper’s works and another 35 from his contemporaries, the exhibition will also feature diary entries and postcards from Hopper’s wife and fellow artist, Josephine. As the press release explains, these artifacts "humanize the artist and his wife, providing detailed accounts of their travels in their own words and personal responses to the places they visited, their experiences there, and how these trips informed their art."

The "Hopper Hotel Experience" will offer a number of different packages that, in addition to spending a night at the museum in a room modeled after Hopper's painting, will include everything from dinner at Amuse, the VMFA’s fine dining restaurant, to a guided tour of the exhibition with Mazow.

Information on how to book an overnight stay will made available closer to the exhibition's October 26th opening. But you don’t have to commit to a museum sleepover in order to step inside the artwork; you can also just take a walk around it during museum hours.

[h/t Artnet News]

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