What and when: Chopin Memorial Monument, unveiled on Friday 16 September.
Who: The artist is Robert Sobocinski, the man at the piano is Fryderyk Chopin.
The statue looks a bit...er...elaborate
It is. To quote: 'Chopin at the piano gazing across at his muse Baroness Aurore Lucile Dupon. Carved into the work is an eagle in flight, the symbol of Poland for over a thousand years and a battle scene representing the Polish fight for freedom.'
Muse, do you mean....
Yep, lover. Shagger Chopin had lots of lovers....or muses. Muse is so much more refined, don't you think?
But why is the work here, in Manchester, on Deansgate?
It celebrates Chopin's visit to Manchester in 1848, the 200th anniversary of his birth (albeit a year late) and most importantly the role of the Polish community in Manchester and their contribution to civic life. It's a symbol of the friendship between Poland and the UK as well.
Who paid for it?
The public did, privately so to speak. Lots of people. Not a penny of tax-payers' graft went into it. The largest donation came from the remarkably generous and admirable property company Bruntwood - those indefatigable and estimable patrons of art. There's a lesson in this.
Can you imagine how we could beautify this city if other companies were quite so committed to the arts? Well done to Michael Oglesby, the Bruntwood chairman, who overheard a chap called Christian Wewer and others dreaming up the idea in a restaurant. He went over, liked what he heard and put his hand in his pocket.
What's the quality of the sculpture like?
Firstly, let's applaud the motive behind the piece. Poland and Britain do share history. We are intertwined and the Manchester region has welcomed many Polish people into its loving embrace.
Also the work will provide a great conversation point for tour guides and passers-by. It will help animate Deansgate.
Wow. Nice words. Yet all the unarticulated 'buts' are giving me a headache. How good is the piece?
Sorry to say, but there are serious problems.
The closest comparison in Manchester is John Cassidy's 'Adrift' (click here) outside Central Library, a Beaux Arts work with multiple figures. The Chopin ensemble is very weak compared to that sculpture and also poorly modelled.
Look at Chopin's muse, the lovely Aurore. She's waving an arm so twig-like it looks as though a carelessly tossed paper cup from the nearby Starbucks might snap it.
Chopin's face is too thin; pixie-like. Yes, the real Chopin had a sharp nose but not like this. If in 2011 people are to risk attempting representational work then they should make sure they can execute a correct likeness. Personally I feel that representational work should remain the domain of football clubs with their statues of past heroes outside grounds.
Again contrast the Chopin piece with the sureness of touch, the clarity of the modelling, the sharpness of edge in Cassidy's piece (and he was only an average artist) and Sobocinski's work doesn't match up.
There's a certain awkwardness too about the way the composition is put together with that soldier and the helmeted lady with the spear on the top.
Why is it on Deansgate?
Pragmatic reasons. The actual place where Chopin performed was the Gentleman's Concert Hall on the site of the Midland Hotel. But here on Deansgate, Bruntwood had space for the work outside its Centurion House office building.
Seems a bit busy round the statue street furniture-wise?
It is too busy. Sobocinski's work has to compete with a bus-stop and cramped site off the main pavement area. It also has to compete with Centurion House behind. The red-brown brick of this building is similar in shade to the base of the memorial, the bronze similar in shade to the window surrounds.
Then there are the trees...from across the road the work seems to disappear.
And why was it aligned with a slight slope on the site which makes it appear to lean back? And why was it not placed at right angles to Deansgate rather than angled at a tangent from it? Very odd.
It pains me to make these criticisms given the motive and money behind the work. The criticisms don't finish there either. The big blank rear of the work presents an unhappy side to people walking behind it. Still the opening ceremony was very impressive.
Poland and Manchester came out in force. There was the Foreign Minister, the Ambassador, a top priest, the Bishop of Manchester, the Council Leader. National Anthems were sung - some of the older Polish folk singing both. There were gents in cracking uniforms with loads of medals. It was very moving. It struck me that maybe countries that have lost wars or been occupied in living memory are more patriotic than countries like the UK where people are more reluctant to flag-wave, except over football and Royal Weddings. Poland has more cause to obssess over identity. It's probably more unifying than our way.
12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.
I started work at Dial House in 1946, as a trainee telephonist . Did any body else work at the…Read more
I'm sure it will happen over time, the sprawling suburbs will start to creep back towards the city…Read more
To digress a little but in a similar mindset,why has nobody done anything about regenerating…Read more
I'm basically saying that 2 peters square is set to be an equivalent North tower. But at least that…Read more