Water Music

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

If you live near the Liverpool coast, don’t be alarmed to see human figures slowly disappearing beneath the waves. They’re part of a modern sculpture, called Another Place, designed by Antony Gormley. There are 100 cast-iron figures in all, spread over a 2-mile stretch of beach.

They’re coming to New York in November.

The “Temple of Justice”

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court building is pretty spiffy. It has its own cafeteria, a 450,000-book library and a basketball court on the fifth floor (which staffers call “the highest court in the land”).

It’s so spiffy that when it opened in 1935, some justices were embarrassed. Harlan Fiske Stone called it “almost bombastically pretentious … wholly inappropriate for a quiet group of old boys such as the Supreme Court.” Others called it “the Temple of Karnak” and suggested that justices ought to enter the courtroom riding on elephants.

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One worrying note: The building’s frieze depicts Moses delivering the Ten Commandments, but his beard obscures some of the Hebrew, so the visible text reads:

Steal
Kill
Commit Adultery

But let that pass.

Ferdinand Cheval

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

French postman Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) tripped on a stone in April 1879 and was never the same again. Claiming he’d been inspired, he began collecting stones during his daily rounds, carrying them home in huge quantities and assembling them at night by the light of an oil lamp.

After 20 years he’d completed the outer walls of his palais idéal (“ideal castle”), combining styles suggested by the Bible and Hindu mythology. But when Cheval finished the project after 33 years of work, authorities refused to let him be buried in it. So he built his own mausoleum.

His dedication was rewarded — he was interred there the following year.

Graduated Rulers

Stretch out this image by Erhard Schön …

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… and you’ll see images of Charles V, Ferdinand I, Pope Paul III, and Francis I:

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Big deal, you say, anyone with a computer can make a compressed image.

Well, Schön made this one 1535, as a wood carving. Beat that.

No Dipping

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Prague’s “Dancing House” is nicknamed “Fred and Ginger,” for obvious reasons.

Such a controversial design would normally be denied, but former president Václav Havel is a strong supporter of avant-garde architecture … and he owns the building next door.

Fallen Astronaut

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There’s only one piece of art on the moon: Fallen Astronaut, an 8.5-cm aluminum sculpture of an astronaut in a spacesuit. It’s meant to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who died furthering space exploration … but it’s also a testament to the almost limitless patience of its creator.

Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck agreed to the project after meeting astronaut David Scott at a dinner party. Making art for the moon is pretty demanding in itself — it has to be lightweight, sturdy, and tolerant of temperature extremes. But NASA also said the figure couldn’t be identifiably male or female, nor of any identifiable ethnic group. On top of that, because Scott wanted to avoid the commercialization of space, they didn’t want to make Van Hoeydonck’s name public.

The artist agreed to all this, and in 1971 Apollo 15 put Fallen Astronaut on the moon, along with a plaque listing 14 fallen space explorers. Van Hoeydonck even agreed to create a replica for the National Air and Space Museum “with good taste and without publicity.”

But he finally balked when Scott tried to talk him out of selling 950 signed replicas for $750 apiece at New York’s Waddell Gallery in 1972. A guy’s got to make a living.

Hare Raising

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This is Hase, a 200-foot bunny erected in September on an Italian mountainside by the Viennese art group Gelatin.

You’re welcome to climb around on it. No rush — it’ll be there until 2025.