An art sculpture donated by a Malaysian businessman to Imperial College London has ruffled some of the students who say the figure looks “phallic” and may damage the reputation of the institution.
The Imperial College Union said that while there was “nothing inherently wrong with phallic imagery in art”, the sculpture dubbed “Alert” could “damage the image and reputation of the college,” reported the British newspaper The Guardian.
The artwork, which stands around 6m tall and is believed to resemble a crouching human figure, was donated by Brahmal Vasudevan, an alumnus of Imperial College London, and his wife Shanthi Kandiah.
Brahmal, founder and CEO of private equity firm Creador, said he shared the college’s vision “for a vibrant public space” by donating the sculpture by world-renowned artist Antony Gormley.
“I am deeply proud of my connection to Imperial and have fond memories of my time on campus as a student,” he said in a statement posted on the university’s website. .
“I share the college’s vision of a vibrant public space and am proud to bring this iconic, world-class artwork by Antony Gormley to the heart of campus.”
Gormley himself had said he wanted to explore the correlation between people and their environment when creating “Alert”.
But the students said in their motion there was an “obvious” interpretation of someone showing an erect penis, The Guardian reported.
Adding that the students were not consulted on the installation of the sculpture, they said even its name could be understood to refer to such an interpretation.
In his statement also on the university’s website, however, Gormley said he wanted to “reevaluate the relationship between the body and space.”
“Balanced on the soles of her feet while squatting on her haunches and surveying the world around her, the attitude of this sculpture is alive, alert and awake,” he said.