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London, England

Monument to the Unknown Artist

The London statue that imitates passersby.  

There are bronze sculptures and then there are people pose like bronze sculptures to try to make money, and then there’s the “Monument to the Unknown Artist,” which is something in between.

The piece is by an artist collective called Greyworld, and it looks like any other bronze sculpture until someone, knowingly or not, strikes a pose in view of its camera. The loose fitting suit and neck scarf flutter in the wind, and if the camera catches someone posing in front of it, the Unknown Artist tries to imitate that person.

Paintbrush in hand, the animatronic man has a few stock poses, but its main purpose is to respond to the public, as few other pieces of “public art” actually do. It has been “dialoguing” with curious passersby near the Tate Modern building in London’s Bankside since 2007.

A plaque on the statue’s very large plinth reads “Non Plaudite, Modo Pecuniam Jacite,” which translates from Latin as, “Do not applaud, just throw money.” An odd request for a sculpture, but this one may well climb down and collect its earnings at the end of the day, as long as it sees someone doing so first.