Almost a century after she was first left sitting on a rock out to sea on Copenhagen’s Langelinie, Denmark’s best-known icon, the bronze statue of The Little Mermaid, has been presented with her male counterpart.
Over the years she’s fallen victim to the whims of both political activists and artists’ happenings. In 2010, she was shipped to China to promote her nation. Now, she has finally found her prince – perhaps.
Built in 1913 by Edvard Eriksen, after the story by HC Andersen and modeled on the artist’s wife, the bronze, passive mermaid both complements and contrasts the modern, stainless steel figure of ‘HAN’ (Danish for ‘him’). The new statue has been placed outside Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, some 25 miles north of the Little Mermaid, and has been created by Elmgreen & Dragset. And though they might sound like an intrepid pair of fictional superheroes, they are in fact an artistic duo made up of Danish Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian Ingar Dragset, who have been working together since 1995.
In February 2012, Elmgreen & Dragset added a typically outrageous artist’s touch to the fourth plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square. Their golden statue of a boy on a rocking horse will sit alongside Nelson’s Column throughout the London Olympics. Also on the duo’s CV is ‘Prada Marfa’, a full scale replica of a Prada store that has been on permanent display in the middle of the Texan desert since 2005.
HAN is a much more dynamic and contemporary icon than his older sister, and is cast in ultra-shiny stainless steel. Unveiled on June 2 this year, he will be a permanent fixture on the waterfront next to the castle believed to be the setting for Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy, Hamlet. Identical in size to The Little Mermaid and placed in a similar posture, his rather sad gaze seems to hint at loneliness.
Those passing the statue on their way into Kronborg who claim to see the statue blink are not losing their marbles. With the aid of a hydraulic mechanism, Elmgreen & Dragset have engineered their robotic statue to close its eyes for a split second once every hour.
Image of ‘Han’ courtesy of the artists.