For years, couples visiting the City of Lights celebrated their love by attaching padlocks to the railings of Pont des Arts bridge and then tossing the keys into the Seine river. As romantic a gesture as that may be, the locks eventually became a big headache for city officials. The hundreds of thousands of locks not only blocked a grand view of the river below, but also added so much weight to the sides of the Paris bridge that it was becoming a safety hazard.
City workers recently snipped all the padlocks off and installed plexiglass panes to prevent lovers from attaching new ones. While that may be a dismay to many, city officials realized that there was still potential to draw visitors to the iconic bridge by making it home to a rotating series of art installations, Benoît Morenne reports for the New York Times.
Titled “The Enchanted Footbridge,” the current outdoors exhibition by the artist Daniel Hourdé features several metal sculptures inspired by classical mythology in all its grisly glory. One golden sculpture depicts a man beset by a pack of flat metal wolves, while another appears to be tossing a person over the side of the bridge into the Seine below, Sarah Cascone reports for artnet News.
“I imagined a kind of hanging garden,” Hourdé tells Morenne. “All sculptures are on the verge of equilibrium, on the verge of rupture.”
Drawn from images of classical mythology, the sculptures show both graceful beauty and imminent danger to their subjects. Alongside the angry-seeming dogs, another sculpture features a man trapped under a pile of collapsing steel beams that spell out the Greek word for “sky,” Morenne reports.
Hourdé’s sculptures aren’t the first artworks to grace the Pont des Arts since the love locks came down. Previous installations included colorful graffiti by renowned street artists like eL Seed, Henri Neuendorf writes for artnet News.
The current exhibition of metal statues by the artist has inspired mixed reviews by tourists and Parisians alike.
“I don’t know if I like it,” a tourist from Greece named Cornelia Katsikotoulou tells Morenne. “I get mythology, I get Apocalypse Now, I get Olympics. I have to understand what it means.”
The eerie sculptures may be a jarring sight for those expecting the bridge to retain some element of the romance symbolized by the love locks, but for some the sight of the Seine is worth it, whether or not everyone likes the change in the bridge’s character, Cascone writes.
“When you have the locks, you have a wall,” Nicolas A., a French photographer, tells Morenne. “Try putting a notebook in front of your eyes and now choose what you prefer. The place has been reclaimed.”
“The Enchanted Footbridge” is on display through June 12, 2016.