Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sculpture and National Identity

Sorry tourists, the harbor is empty.

The iconic "Little Mermaid" sculpture by Edvard Eriksen has left Copenhagen for China. She is representing Denmark in the Shanghai World Expo.

"What else could we have sent? A Danish hot dog? A Lego Block?" says Peter Romer Hansen, senior director of business development. "She is great in her smallness. She is tiny but her longing to go out to see the world is wonderful."

That's right, a fairy tale by Hans Christen Anderson, of a mermaid who longed to become human, became a sculpture in 1913 which became a a much loved national symbol that is now representing her country on a state visit to China.

The idea to send the mermaid to China belongs to the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. He designed Denmark's pavilion at the fair. The mermaid and her rock will be displayed in a pool of clean seawater from the Copenhagen harbor, that's to show the kind of advanced environmental technology that Denmark wants to sell to the Chinese.

Sculptural diplomacy is alive and well.

Story from the NY Times by John Tagliabue. Photo credit here

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