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My Kelpies will be Scotland's Statue of Liberty, says sculptor

THE creator of the Kelpies has told of his hope that his giant horse ­sculptures will become Scotland's answer to New York's Statue of Liberty.

Artist Andy Scott with his 300-tonne Kelpies at The Helix park in FalkirkPhotograph: Julie Howden
Artist Andy Scott with his 300-tonne Kelpies at The Helix park in FalkirkPhotograph: Julie Howden

The two 30-metre-high horse heads standing in The Helix park in Falkirk have already attracted interest from as far away as Japan and Australia since they were unveiled two weeks ago.

A BBC documentary to be ­broadcast on Tuesday will trace the long process of creating the artwork - from Glasgow-based sculptor Andy Scott first sketching his idea as he sat at a kitchen table to 300 tonnes of steel being pieced together like a giant Meccano set for each horse.

Scott tells how he had initially expected the project to take a couple of years, but it was eight years before he saw his vision become a reality.

He said the idea of creating something to match the Statue of Liberty's iconic status helped to motivate him.

"They are very different types of sculpture of course, but nevertheless [the Statue of Liberty] really has become symbolic of New York and probably America," he said.

"To think that the Kelpies - in my wildest moments - might actually have that kind of implication and significance for Scotland would be phenomenal."

He added: "I can only hope as the years go on and the Kelpies grow in the popularity and recognition that they have got, that might actually happen for the sculptures. It would be amazing ... Time will tell."

An estimated 5000 people visited the Kelpies on the first official day of opening and about 1800 paid to take a tour of the sculptures in the first week.

However, in Creating the Kelpies, to be broadcast on BBC Two Scotland at 9pm on Tuesday, Scott tells how the financial crisis caused by the recession of 2008 nearly "killed off" the Kelpies and set the project back years.

The £43 million Helix park project was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals, with £5m used to construct the Kelpies.

The artist also speaks of the difficulty gaining recognition for his work while being based north of the Border, and his hope the Kelpies will boost his profile internationally.

He said: "I would love to see them become well-known and recognised internationally as well as in Scotland and across the UK.

"It is often difficult up here, as a professional artist working on bigger projects, to get recognition - the London art world controls the world almost, and you can do what you like up here, but to get any recognition for your own works or project you are involved in is very, very difficult.

"I'm hoping that these pieces do that and will be able to give Scotland something very magnificent that the whole population can be proud of."

The launch of the Kelpies made the front page of the Japan Times, with coverage in Australia, America, Russia, Germany, Holland and in specialist steel and horse magazines across Europe.

But a scathing review by Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones branded the work a "piece of trash". He said: "The Kelpies is just a kitsch exercise in art 'for the people', carefully stripped of difficulty, controversy and meaning."

Scott told the Sunday Herald the "very personal and vindictive ­criticism" had "irked him".

But he added: "I was more pleased to see the dozens, if not hundreds, of favourable comments which were made in response to the story".

He is currently busy finishing a commission of five horse sculptures for a private collector in New York, but he told the Sunday Herald his phone was "not ringing off the hook yet".

He added: "There has not been a single enquiry as a result of the Kelpies ... I think the sheer scale of them might in a weird way ... be too big and people think I am only interested in projects involving 300 tonnes [of steel], which is far from the truth.

"I am busy enough, for sure, and I can only hope that once word spreads about the Kelpies and my wider folio, that other proposals will come my way."

And despite being known for his equine sculpture, Scott added: "I have only been on a horse once, I am ashamed to say. I did enjoy it - but horseriding requires a concept of leisure time which sadly I don't have, as I'm making [horse sculptures] so much.

"It is purely artistic attraction and one I am really quite taken by now and really pushing the technique."

A visitor centre at the Kelpies site, which will tell the story of their development and sell Kelpies miniatures and products, is due to open later this year.

A spokesman for The Helix said: "Falkirk is really being put on the map in terms of the number of people who have seen something about the Kelpies and Falkirk."

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