‘Whale penis’ sculpture in Kirkcaldy ‘falling to bits’

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An “iconic” piece of artwork, created to welcome people to Kirkcaldy, is “falling to bits” just two years after being installed on the town’s Esplanade.

But the artist behind the piece says he will visit it within the next week to assess its state, and carry out repairs if they are necessary.

The 30-foot high sculpture by world-renowned artist David Mach, was commissioned by Morrison’s supermarket for £35,000 as part of a planning condition for its Kirkcaldy store which opened in 2013.

However, the abstract piece, entitled Phantom, encountered numerous delays and was not installed until February 2015.

It features a wave-shaped piece of driftwood covered in metal tacks, designed to catch and reflect the light.

But many of the nails have rusted and are falling off, while parts of the wood underneath are crumbling away, leaving gaps.

One reader contacted the Fife Free Press to say it was dangerous and could cause injury to passing children or animals.

When The Scotsman’s sister paper, the Fife Free Press investigated, they rpeorted finding dozens of metal tacks, some rusted and some not, scattered around the plinth, with some falling down on to the pavement used by pedestrians, dog walkers and cyclists to get to the supermarket.

While many shoppers at Morrison’s told the Fife Free Press they did not notice the sculpture, others described it as “an eyesore” while several said they wouldn’t miss it if it was taken away.

Rodney Hunter, 57, said: “I live along the other end and hadn’t noticed how bad it was, but I think it was a waste of time and money. We could have had something else there that people recognised.

“I wouldn’t miss it if it had to go.”

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A lady, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I live along the road and pass it every day, and it’s a real eyesore. It is all rusty and looks awful and the nails are all falling out.

“People ride their bikes up here at night and they could easily get a puncture if they don’t notice the nails and ride over them. A child could also pick one up. It is dangerous.”

Another added: “It hasn’t even been up that long and it is falling to bits already.”

Councillor Neil Crooks, chairman of the Kirkcaldy area committee, said: “My view is this piece is an embarrassment to David Mach, who is a well respected artist.

“The group which chose his work probably felt they were in safe hands with such an eminent Scottish artist.

“I would not be sorry to see it taken down as it has rusted and deteriorated very quickly and certainly did not achieve the ambition of the area committee, which requested an “iconic piece” of public art to mark the entry to the Waterfront. Thankfully the committee had nothing to do with choosing this piece and it would be widely welcomed if it was taken down.

“I actually thought it was unfinished and maybe rushed into place to meet a deadline, unlike the artwork on the walls which has stood the test of time and reflects the history of the area.

“People have called Mach’s work a whale’s penis, but since its erection it has not brought a lot of pleasure to its surroundings.”

Marilyn Livingstone, one of a number of judges on the panel which chose the Mach design, added: “We chose this because we thought it was the best design and it was by a local and renowned artist.

“If it has not lived up to expectations then Morrison’s who commissioned it should get back to the artist to get it fixed.”

Mr Mach said he would check it to see if work needed done.

“It was a new piece and it was untested in the way of making it,” he said.

“It is certainly the ugliest thing I have ever made, but it is a really powerful sculpture and that’s part of it.

“It is meant to rust and discolour in parts, but I don’t like the idea of nails falling off it.

“I will go up next week and check it out. If it is really beginning to fall to bits I will repair it and if the worst comes to the worst, I might need to take it down.”

A spokesman for Morrison’s added: “Our colleagues have tidied the area. We are looking into the longer term maintenance of the artwork.”

• This article first appeared in our sister newspaper Fife Free Press