The unveiling of the new Miles Davis statue in Alton, Illinois last week delighted fans, both of Miles and of rock art.
The Alton statue is testimony to Miles Davis’ ever-growing stature as a giant of twentieth century culture. And, hot on the heels of the unveiling of the Bob Dylan mural in Minneapolis, it underlines the increasing popularity of street rock art.
Welcoming Alton’s new Miles Davis statue, I found myself comparing it with Miles Davis statues in Nice, France and in Kielce, Poland. How similar are they? How do they differ?
Miles Davis statue #1 Alton, Illinois
The striking new Alton statue, by sculptor Preston Jackson, is life-size, and cast in bronze. It portrays Miles, probably around 1970, as he was veering from classic chamber jazz to jazz-rock fusion. It’s a realistic piece – it’s obvious from a glance that you’re looking at Miles Davis. Sculptor Jackson didn’t indulge his artistic licence or impose any idiosyncratic stylisation on the work.
The Alton Miles Davis statue, centrally located at 137 West Third Street, will have a big impact, because it’s very good and because of its powerful local resonance – Miles was born in Alton, and its citizens will be enormously proud to be reminded of their most famous son.
All praise artist Preston Jackson and the Miles Davis Memorial Project, which commissioned the statue.
Miles Davis statue #2, Nice, France
The new Alton artwork looks nothing like the Miles Davis statue in Nice, France. Dating from 1999, the Nice statue is the work of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
Her statue isn’t intended to be realistic: it’s double life-size, portraying Davis as portly-going-on-obese trumpeter. It’s in the signature style Niki de Saint Phalle made famous – plump, joyous individuals Hell-bent on having a good time. It’s fun, so it’s finished in bright primary colours.
Nice’s Miles Davis statue is located outside the city’s landmark Hotel Negresco on La Promenade des Anglais, the iconic seafront thoroughfare of the French Riviera.
The Miles Davis statue in Nice has local resonance, though admittedly not as strong as Alton’s. Miles Davis was a frequent performer at jazz festivals on this coast, both in Nice and nearby Juan-les-Pins.
Nice also honours Davis with a public pathway named after him (Allee Miles Davis) in Le Parc des Arenes de Cimiez, the original site of the Nice Jazz Festival.
Artist Niki de Saint Phalle also had strong Nice connections – you can see other delightfully playful statues by her, just east along the Promenade, outside Le Palais de la Mediterranee. And you can see her distinctive work at MAMAC, the city’s splendid modern and contemporary art museum.
Miles Davis statue #3, Kielce, Poland
You can see a third fine Miles Davis statue in Kielce, Poland. Like the Alton work, it’s a life-size bronze, this time portraying an ageing Miles, trumpet to his lips, wearing a heavy topcoat against the local weather.
I’ve yet to see this artwork and would welcome comments on it from readers familiar with it. I’m also unsure who had the enviable vision and skill to create it. If you know more about this lovely artwork, please Leave a reply, above.
Other Miles Davis statues?
All three wonderful Miles Davis statues, in Alton, Nice and Kielce, pay homage to the legacy of a cultural giant. They’re the only three I’m aware of, and I suspect there might well be others: if you know of any, please Leave a reply to this post.
Thanks, in advance.
Copyright: artwork and photographs as per captions; text Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.