The Horse Roundabout is so distinctive, such a landmark that it has made it into maps

The Horse Roundabout is so distinctive, such a landmark that it has made it into maps

30-03-2021MDB files

It was quite a number of years ago now. Someone asked me two questions. When were they going to get rid of that “thing”? And - Who must have had a mate in the town hall to have ever allowed such a “thing”?

Unkind, I felt, having grown so used to and fond of that “thing” that I had even used it for a Christmas greeting. A Santa hat was Photoshopped onto its head - “The horse wishes you a merry Christmas”.

Getting rid of that thing is clearly quite a task. The horse sculpture of Alcudia was built to last. It is made of very solid stuff, as a truck discovered the other day.

The horse suffered some damage, but the truck which had ploughed into it came off second best. However, it temporarily has been got rid of.

They needed a crane to put it there in the first place, and they needed another crane to remove it and take it off to wherever horse sculptures go for repairs.

For twenty-four long years the horse has stood on its concrete plinth in the middle of the Rotonda Caballo.

The Horse Roundabout is so distinctive, such a landmark that it has made it into maps. Of all the weird and wonderful creations that adorn Mallorca’s roundabouts, it has to be the weirdest and the most wonderful, a work of bizarre and massive fantasy by Aligi Sassu.

Aligi lived in Pollensa, yet oddly he bequeathed the horse to the neighbouring municipality. It was to be several years before Pollensa started putting things on roundabouts - a Canadair here, a cockerel there - and Aligi was dead by then.

It was July 1997; the official inauguration ceremony, that is. This was no minor inauguration.

There were two roundabouts, two sculptures, and new roads. As there were two sculptures, there were two sculptors. Aligi was joined by Ben Yakober of the Fundación Yannick y Ben Jakober and the Sa Bassa Blanca Museum in Alcudia.

Ben’s work was Leonardo’s Knot on what is still known as the Magic Roundabout, even if the Magic Centre is no longer there. The winching into position of Leonardo’s Knot had been a rather more straightforward and earlier task than that in February 1997 to instal the horse.

It certainly proved to be somewhat easier to remove the horse the other day than it was to put it on the roundabout originally.

While Ben’s sculpture had confounded some observers, the reaction was as nothing when compared to Aligi’s creation.

‘The horse which looks to the sky (or possibly heaven) of Alcudia’; this was its name, but was it really a horse? There were some who needed convincing. And still do.

Aligi was well-known for his horse works. There were sculptures, but there were also paintings. Fantastic creatures, which - as he once said - “come from the recesses of the soul”.

There were suggestions among his earlier sculptures to give an idea as to what was to appear on the roundabout - kicking horses, heads pointing to the sky - but none which had hinted at the style or the size.

The previous ones were futuristic but classical at the same time. The Alcudia horse was a total departure, and it was in a colour reminiscent of a butane gas bottle - the butane factory is not far from the roundabout. It has needed repainting, as at one point it had faded to something like a salmon pink.

The Council of Mallorca, responsible for main roads, had wished to make a real splash for the new roads in Alcudia. What better way to do this than celebrate with a gigantic sculpture on a roundabout. The town hall shared the cost - four million pesetas, equivalent to around 25,000 euros when the euro was launched in 1999.

The cost aside, the horse did provoke controversy and discussion. It was argued that it didn’t say anything about Alcudia or Majorca. Something more classical and traditional might have been preferable. And where had been the consultation?

Aligi and Ben Yakober were highly respected. This was not disputed, but should people not have been given the opportunity to say what they thought? Who had actually made the decision?

It says much for how things have moved on that there would now be far greater consultation and transparency. But regardless of the decision-making process in the 1990s, Aligi and Ben’s sculptures became iconic, and the more so because they were artists with reputations that extended well beyond Mallorca.

There were to be all manner of other roundabout sculptures, but it was rarely the case that they attracted the level of interest that the horse did.

And artists in Mallorca have not been entirely enthusiastic about all the roundabout art because there is so little recognition or knowledge of who was actually responsible for it.

Occasionally, however, much publicity is given to the artist, as was the case with Guillem Crespi’s giant sculpture of a demon’s head that is now at the entrance to Santa Margalida. More traditional of Mallorca no doubt, but will it ever attract quite the same attention as the horse which looks to the sky?

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