The public procure a public sculpture


I was amused to stumble across a post about a public statue of Robocop, from the Paul Verhoeven cult sci-fi movie, set in Detroit. It was funded by fans and enthusiasts who felt the character was integral to Detroit. It is based on an accurate restoration of the suit from the first film and will be cast in bronze.

The idea started as a joke tweet to the Detroit mayor but piqued the interest of fans and became a real fund-raising effort, surpassing a $50,000 target and blossoming into a serious project that has followed the conventional process for the approval of a sculpture being gifted to the city.

There’s a whole approval process that the city goes through when accepting any charitable donation; this isn’t any different, despite the popular support. We’ve made the appropriate steps in getting that process moving along, but we have several potential privately-funded locations on the table as well…

– businessman Pete Hottelet, who donated $25,000

One controversy has been the reaction of some Detroit residents who argue the money would be better spent elsewhere. Whether or not you agree with fundraising for this type of relatively frivolous scheme, it got me thinking about the role of the public in procuring public art. One of the most interesting comments on the blog posts I looked at was: “Maybe this type of public-works democratization will start happening with even larger, more ambitious ideas.”

Loosely related, on a Robocop theme, is the following delightful post from last autumn on a Detroit blog called Sweet Juniper. A child dressed as Robocop, photographed by his father at dystopian-looking urban features around the city. What’s not to like?

On the face of it, this is also quirky blog post material but on a deeper level it highlights how something like a movie character can be integral to the culture of a city. This is an ordinary father and his son having a fun day out.

A similar movie-character piece was erected at the foot of the Victorian William Wallace monument in Stirling. Strangely the sculpture bore a striking resemblance to Mel Gibson.


Aesthetically though, it didn’t cut the mustard as a piece of art and has been removed. I don’t think the public were involved in this decision but I don’t hear any complaints since it has gone.

William Wallace AKA Mel Gibson removed from the site of the Wallace Monument. Complete chance that we arrived to see this undignified end to this awful sculpture. Good riddance.


Public art / sculpture providers on



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: