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Little Mermaid gains a shiny new boyfriend named Han

June 06, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Hans is a polished steel sculpture meant to mimic the Little Mermaid's stance in Copenhagen.
Hans is a polished steel sculpture meant to mimic the Little Mermaid's… (Danish Arts Foundation )

Little Mermaid, meet Han, a polished steel hunk who also perches on a rock overlooking a famous Danish harbor. And he blinks (or is he winking at you?) once an hour.

The two sculptures are cities apart -- the Little Mermaid overlooks Copenhagen while Han gazes out from Helsingoer about 28 miles to the north -- but share a common size and look. And that's likely the point: Han, which means "him" in Danish, hopes to draw as many tourists to his town, a.k.a. Elsinore, thanks to Shakespeare, as the century-old Little Mermaid does to hers.

The Danish Arts Foundation and the city of Helsingoer funded the work by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, which media reports say cost about half a million dollars. The Scandinavian sculptors recently gained attention for their installation of a bronze boy on a rocking horse (titled "Powerless Structures Fig. 101") atop a plinth in London's Trafalgar Square. It is to remain on display until April.

In a news release, the arts foundation refers to the Little Mermaid as Han's older sister and describes the new sculpture's curved surface as "creating a distorted imagery reminiscent of a psychedelic aesthetic." Groovy.

But back to the Little Mermaid, who was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. She's often been referred to as a "beloved landmark" after she and her rock were installed in 1913. But during her almost 100 years, she has been beheaded, her arm has been torn off and she's been painted several times, according to this Agence France-Presse story. Most recently, she was covered with a burka and a headscarf.

Let's hope Han has an easier time of it.

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