Colossus of Rhodes

Published November 18, 2008

IT may not straddle the port as its predecessor once did, but in terms of sheer luminosity and eye-catching height the new Colossus of Rhodes will not disappoint. Nor will it fall short of the symbolism that once imbued the ancient monument.

Twenty-three centuries after craftsmen carved the legendary statue that has inspired legions of painters, poets, playwrights and politicians, a new world wonder, built in the spirit of the original Colossus, is about to be born on the Aegean island. After decades of dashed hopes, the people of Rhodes will fulfil a long-held dream to revive one of the world`s seven ancient wonders — thanks to the promise of international funding and the East German artist Gert Hof.

“It will be a unique architectural creation,” said the island`s mayor, Hatzis Hatziefthimiou, presenting what is likely to become one of the 21st century`s largest artistic projects in Dubai last week.

“We want to make it a work of global appeal and significance.”

Like the original, erected in homage to the sun god Helios by the master sculptor Chares of Lindos, the new Colossus will adorn an outer pier in the harbour area of Rhodes, and be visible to passing ships.

And like its ancient namesake, the modern-day wonder will be dedicated to celebrating peace and built, at least in part, out of melted-down weapons from around the world.

But unlike the ancient Colossus, which stood 34 metres high before an earthquake toppled it in 226BC, the groundbreaking work of art is slated to be much taller and bigger. And unlike previous reconstruction efforts, officials say the Cologne-based design team is determined to avoid recreating a replica.

In the past, new Colossus aficionados have persistently run up against the objections of Greece`s powerful lobby of archaeologists.

A proposal to recreate the legendary statue in the run-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics whipped up such controversy that opponents claimed its glitzy, we`re-bigger-than-you overtones were not only offensive but defiled rather than boosted the country`s cultural heritage.

Instead, in the spirit of the 21st century the new Colossus has been conceived as a highly innovative light sculpture, a work of art that will allow visitors to physically inspect it by day as well as enjoy — through light shows — a variety of stories it will “tell” by night.

— The Guardian, London

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