In the early stages of this blog, I wrote that I would be giving some modern examples of iconoclasm. Hence, today’s post is about one of Copenhagen’s most popular tourist attractions, the statue of The Little Mermaid. The 200th birthday of Hans Christian Andersen is being celebrated this year, so it is fitting to retell the story of how the statue portraying his Little Mermaid lost her head.
The Little Mermaid without her head.
It has happened a couple of times since, but the first was undoutedly the most original and captivating. The year was 1964, and it caused a media frenzy. The artist Jørgen Nash was from early on a prime suspect and played happily along in the media, but he was never found guilty. However, in 1997 he revealed in his autobiography Havfruemorderen krydser sine spor (which translates to something like “The Mermaid murderer crosses his tracks”) that he had indeed cut off the head and dumped it in a lake. The original head was never found, but was quickly replaced. So what was he trying to tell us? As most of his work, Nash’s attack against the Little Mermaid, was conceptualized as an artistic happening against the Danish cultural elite, who found the statue of poor taste. It is also clear from this autobiography that he later regretted the attack, but notes that it boosted Danish tourism and the statue’s international fame.
The later copy-cat attacks and other kinds of vandalism are all covered by this website, that also has a short summary of the events in English. Thanks to Steen (Hammershøy) for reminding me of the Little Mermaid’s tragic fate.