The snowman in Tenerife

In a city that’s never seen snow, there stands a giant snowman. The iconic sculpture is located on the roundabout at Avda. Los Majuelos in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The snowman  has been voted four times as the worst monument located in one of the 23,000 roundabouts throughout Spain. In 2013, various digital platforms in Spain carried out online voting: in all of them, the snowman stood tall as one of the greatest monumental horrors of Spain. In one ranking, the Tenerife sculpture received nearly 2,000 votes.

The proliferation of roundabout sculpture throughout Spain is not accidental. The origin was a law passed in the 70s that established “the obligation to allocate in public works contracts a portion of at least 1% to works of conservation or enrichment of the Spanish Historical Heritage or to the promotion of artistic creativity.” Despite the good intentions of this legislation, the result has not always been to the liking of citizens. These rotonda sculptures have been given the derogatory term “rotondismo”. Voting began in Murcia on the worst rotonda sculptures, and quickly went viral. Very soon the snowman was given its due.

What is the history of the snowman? The story begins in 1987, when the City Council of Santa Cruz de Tenerife commissioned the renowned Czech-German artist Jirí (George) Dokoupil, at the height of his career, to design the poster for that year’s Carnival. He did so, they liked it, and he was then chosen to create a sculpture for a certain roundabout. 

Little did they know that Dokoupil had a strong gamberro tendency. In the 70s, he was founding member of the Junge Wilde art movement. In German, the term means “young wild ones”, and now more broadly means any group that seeks to undermine established authority. In 1982, he attracted the attention of the art world with a gigantic painting entitled “God, show me your balls”. One can only guess that the snowman was Dokoupil’s way of fooling with the local bureaucracy. If this is the case, the snowman has suddenly jumped to #1 in my personal ranking of public sculptures in Tenerife: an absurdist landmark poking fun at politicians who are (and should not be) decision-makers when it comes to art. (Rodin Museum, anyone?)  

Back when it was built, neighbors criticized its enormous cost and dubious aesthetics. Later, the Autonomous Culture Agency (OAC) of Santa Cruz refused to maintain and clean it, declaring that it was not their property. Graffiti has appeared on the snowman itself asking for it to be torn down.  As someone who built snowmen as a child, my only criticism is with the anatomy of Dokoupil’s snowman. Snow arms? Just won’t last. Is it on a fourth ball of snow? Too heavy. 3 balls is all a kid can do. No one ever put pots on their snowman’s head where I come from, but perhaps the aesthetics of snowmen in the Czech Republic are different. 

The curator of the LM Art Collection who told me of Dokoupil’s gamberro side will feature an temporary exhibit on Dokoupilat LM in September 2024. I can’t wait. Hail, Snowman!  

[Source: El Diario]