Despite mixed feelings from the Danes about allowing their cherished Little Mermaid to be brought to Shanghai for the 2010 World Expo, Niels Lund Petersen, designer of the Denmark Pavilion, insists the move will bring the two countries closer together.
Niels Lund Petersen, designer of the Denmark Pavilion, will bring the Little Mermaid to Shanghai next April. [Courtesy photo/China Daily]
The popular tourist draw, called Den Lille Havfrue in Danish, will leave Langelinie harbor and make its way to Shanghai next April, one month before the expo opens. It will stay here throughout the event.
"Bringing the original Little Mermaid to Shanghai was part of the initial competition proposal, and a very important part of the project," Petersen, the founder of LOAD Architecture and former associate of BIG, told China Daily via e-mail from Denmark. The proposal from BIG Architects was selected out of a pool of eight designs.
"Luckily the majority of politicians accepted the idea, which is basically a generous gesture, and it will hopefully bring China and Denmark closer together," he said. "It's really a crazy idea (to bring it here)," he added, drawing a comparison with Leonardo da Vinci's classic oil portrait, Mona Lisa, which has been removed from the Louvre in Paris.
Commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen, the son of the Carlsberg beer founder, the statue took its inspiration from the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name in which a mermaid falls in love with a prince and wishes to transform her tail into legs.
The statue found its home in the harbor in 1913, but is actually a copy of an original held by descendants of sculptor Edvard Eriksen. Three other copies exist: one each in California and Iowa, in the United States, and another in Vancouver, Canada.
Petersen said the idea of bringing the Little Mermaid to the World Expo was first introduced in 1992 for the expo in Seville, when it was rejected on political grounds.
The proposal to bring her to Shanghai also met with some controversy, before Copenhagen city council, which owns the statue, voted in favor of the decision by a count of 36 to 14.
"The concept was very much about finding connections between Denmark and China," Petersen said. "Hans Christian Andersen is very well known in China. We were even told that his fairy tales are an obligatory part of the Chinese school curriculum."
However, despite all the calls for the 1.2 m statue to remain at home, she has not always been so loved. In 1964 her head was sawn off and stolen by political artists and a new one had to be made.
In 1984, her right arm was dismantled, only to be returned days later. In 1998 her head went missing again, before being anonymously dropped off at a local television station. The Little Mermaid has additionally been the victim of graffiti on several occasions and was also blown off its rock base with dynamite in 2003.
But at the 2010 Expo, visitors will find in the heart of the Denmark Pavilion a Mermaid Pool filled with water from Copenhagen's harbor. The Little Mermaid will sit in the center of the basin, out in the open - just as she does in the Danish capital.
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