Brimming with monuments designed by illustrious artists and architects including Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Andy Scott, Glasgow is a true Scottish city of sculpture whose residents take art seriously. With various plans for more urban regeneration being put in place every year, and new public artworks popping up all over the city, visitors can view historical and contemporary masterpieces wherever they are in the region. Here’s our list of the top 10 sculptures to explore whilst visiting Scotland’s creative capital.
Situated prominently on Royal Exchange Square, The Equestrian Statue of the Duke of Wellington has come to be one of Glasgow’s most well known and symbolic landmarks. The statue was erected in 1844 and is Carlo Marochetti’s iron interpretation of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. Wellesley was an Irish statesman and general during the Napoleonic wars in the 19th century, renowned for his strategic prowess and bravery in battle. For the last three decades however the statue has come to take on a contemporary significance for the city, being mostly found with a traffic cone propped on the duke’s head. This fun, almost ritualistic Glasgow tradition has come to embody the city’s dark humor and anti-authoritarian spirit, and has made the statue a comical and significant landmark for its citizens. In 2013 Glasgow City Council submitted a planning application attempting to ban the cone, to which residents reacted by creating a 10,613 signature petition urging against the ban. This ultimately led to the council dropping their proposal, an event seen as a pivotal local triumph.
The 1971 Ibrox disaster was a tragic event still mourned to this day by Glasgow citizens. During a football game at Ibrox Football Stadium between the city’s two largest teams, Rangers and Celtic, a large surge of fans attempting to leave the game caused 66 people to be killed in a crush, with 200 more being injured. Designed by influential public artist Andy Scott, the sculptor behind a number of other important UK monuments including The Falkirk Kelpies, this poignant statue commemorates the lives of those lives lost in the accident. Erected on the 30th anniversary of the incident, the bronze statue is of Rangers legend John Greig, the team’s captain on that fateful day. A poignant spot which has become a focal point for the friends and relatives of the victims, this memorial is one of Glasgow’s most stirring and affective works of art. Those wishing to see more of the artist’s work can take a short drive to Greenock and view Ginger the Horse, a gorgeous smaller version of The Falkirk Kelpies.
Those interested in comic books will particularly enjoy a visit to the Lobey Dosser statue in the city’s trendy West End. The structure was built to commemorate legendary Scottish cartoonist Bud Neill, creator of the Lobey Dosser cartoon series, whose fan base stretched all the way to the USA. Set in the Wild West, yet maintaining an all-Glaswegian character list known for their heavy Scottish accents and dialect, the strip was a cult classic celebrating the Glasgow vernacular and attitude. The statue features main character Lobey atop of his trusty steed El Fideldo, and was commissioned entirely through donations from fans after the Glasgow Herald issued an appeal to have Neill’s legacy commemorated.
This stunning piece of modern sculpture work is situated in the Italian Center, an office, restaurant and retail space designed to resemble an Italian style palazzo in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City. Shona Kinloch’s somewhat humorous piece features two figures, a man and a dog, sitting on granite stones above a water piece and looking to the sky in rapture. Equivocal and deliberately questioning, the beloved ‘Bella’ has never been formally explained by the artist, with her identity being a common topic of artistic debate in the area. Fitting in perfectly with its stylish surroundings, Thinking of Bella is a much-valued piece of public modern art that makes for a moment of inquisitive observation in Glasgow.
Created by Stanley Bonnar, a sculptor who has worked as the resident town artist for Glenrothes, Stonehaven and East Kilbride, this piece offers a chance to view art by one of Scotland’s finest creatives. The Community is a fibreglass sculpture showing the figures of four people, all of whom are of different age ranges, standing together and looking outwards at their surroundings. Commissioned during a refurbishment of the statue’s surrounding area, the work symbolizes the solidarity of Glasgow’s people and their sense of togetherness as they embark on bigger and better projects. Emblematic in its concept and touching to view, visitors can take their own interpretation from the work and be sure to leave feeling uplifted and inspired, which is the monument’s sole purpose.
Those arriving into Buchanan Bus Station will not miss The Clyde Clock, a wonderfully creative structure perfectly fitting its fast-paced urban location. This 20-foot-high stainless steel clock is suspended on two long legs made to seem like they are in motion, running to get somewhere. Situated in one of the city’s busiest areas where commuters and travellers are often rushing on to their next location, the clock is undoubtedly ironic and raises more than a few laughs in its passing. Commissioned by Radio Clyde to celebrate its 25th birthday as an independent radio station, the clock is the work of Scottish artist George Wyllie. Both practical and architecturally significant, the clock is a contemporary gem and well worth a visit, just minutes from Glasgow’s best shopping streets.