Thursday, December 8

The rare sculptures that Madrid houses: whistling canes, a dragon, a wave of tracks and the ball of Luis Aragonés

The monumental heritage of Madrid is very extensive. Its streets are full of sculptures that have been filling the city with tributes to outstanding figures and allegories of concepts and achievements of all kinds. There are 577 cataloged in total, although some do not appear in the municipal inventory because they are very recent, such as the newcomer to the Plaza Conde de Valle de Suchil in the form of a telephone booth.

This is one of the most original, although others deserve at least a glance to show the ingenuity of their creators or the City Council when ordering them. We order them in this list:

Telephone box

Placed a few days ago, the sculpture in honor of director Antonio Mercero is a replica of the booths installed by Telefónica in the sixties. The model in red is exactly the same as the one that imprisoned José Luis López Vázquez in the film The cabin, premiered in 1971 and that in addition to anguish all national television viewers, it received the first Emmy award for a Spanish production.

It is made of steel and glass and located at the intersection of the square with Arapiles street, a few meters from the filming location of the film (a neighborhood patio with no public access). To the relief of those who had nightmares about the film, its door is locked so that it cannot be opened and no one is locked in.

The ball of Luis Aragonés

At number 10 Calle del Mar Cantabrico, in the Hortaleza district, you will find one of the strangest monuments that Madrid has erected to remember one of its most beloved footballers and coaches, the inventor of the tiquitaca that so many successes led to the Spanish National Team. It is a granite ball placed on a pedestal, with a plaque that refers to the area where “the wise man” was born.

The tribute was inaugurated in 2014, a few months after his death and the place is close to where he trained with his first soccer team, Juveniles El Pinar. It is not the only recognition towards this mattress player. Atlético de Madrid dedicated him a few weeks ago a more figurative statue at the entrance of their new soccer stadium, the Metropolitano.

Fingers sticking out

The Juan Carlos I park is an authentic collection of conceptual, original and difficult to understand sculptures without an explanation next to it. Here we have chosen one of the simplest but also most original, to show only part of what the passerby can imagine to be hidden underground: a giant’s hand coming out.

The play, Fingers, is by the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal and was originally placed in 1987 on Calle Alcalá, in front of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, as part of a temporary exhibition focused on the Latin American country. Later she was transferred to be part of the Path of Sculptures which can currently be visited in the Madrid park and which has numerous works from an international symposium of sculptors organized by the Madrid City Council in 1991 to decorate it.

The hissing reeds

The sculpture that tops the end of Avenida Islas Filipinas had a hazardous past in its beginnings. It was installed in 1998, taking advantage of the island created in the reform of the Cea Bermúdez environment. The architect Salvador Pérez Arroyo devised this monument made up of nine colored tubes up to 20 meters long, which are approached without touching, designed to play with the sounds of the air as they pass through its tubular interior.

Shortly after its inauguration, the sculpture began to annoy nearby residents, due to the sound it made constantly when it was windy. For this reason, the City Council canceled its sound function and lost part of its meaning. Although its official name is Whistling reeds, in the neighborhood this work is known by many names: the flutes, the sticks …

The fallen angel

There are not many cities in the world that have dedicated a statue to Lucifer and display it in such a majestic way in their landmark park. That of the fallen angel has been in El Retiro since 1877. The author of the figure was the sculptor Ricardo Bellver, who erected it in Rome as a tribute to the poem Paradise lost and represents an angel collapsing, seized by a snake, a metaphor for evil. The cast in bronze was commissioned by the Crown and donated to the City Council in exchange for a pedestal worthy of it.

Madrid granted it a privileged space at the end of the Paseo de Fernán Núñez, with eight heads of demons that expel water from their mouths. To complete the satanic references, the monument is located at an approximate height of 666 meters above sea level.

A wave with train tracks

The entrance to the Chamartín station houses a work invoiced by Agustín Ibarrola with a curious name –Wave to Ritmo de Txalaparta– composed of 54 railway sleepers mounted on a track. Some of them are raised with hazelnut wood slats, simulating the rhythm of this traditional Basque instrument.

Renfe bought this work from Ibarrola in 1986. It is not the only one of the sculptor in a Madrid Cercanías station, since the Príncipe Pío station has the Totem forest, also by the same author.

The Elipa Dragon

Sometimes, a rare figure can also become a source of identity and pride for a neighborhood, as happens with the Dragon of La Elipa. The figure of the dragon was built in concrete around 1981, as a children’s game, by one of the development companies that built houses in the environment. By 2010 it was in a lamentable state of conservation, its function as a slide was closed for not complying with the standards of urban furniture and its very existence was in danger, which caused many residents to protest to save the dragon from the demolition that was stalking it. It was saved, and in 2019 the City Council reformed the old Dragon park, including the famous rehabilitated figure. By the way, some elderly readers will find it familiar because the dragon appeared at the head of Sesame Street.

The abstract strawberry tree

Perhaps the most famous sculpture in Madrid is that of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, at the Puerta del Sol. Although there is another representation of the tree that illustrates the Madrid coat of arms. It has been in Carabanchel since 1999 and was placed there to crown the reform of Laguna Street, one of the main urban streets in this neighborhood.

The sculpture is made up of a granite obelisk that rises from the sidewalk and various metallic elements that simulate the cup of a strawberry tree, the work of José Antonio Barrios located at the intersection of Calle Laguna and Calle de la Oca.

Rock grandma

In Vallecas there is a curious monument dedicated to Ángeles Rodríguez Hidalgo, an Argentinian living in Madrid who became very popular in the neighborhood for her support of the heavy music scene. It was placed in 1994, after his death, as a tribute to the rock grandma, the name by which she was known. Originally he made the gesture of the horns with his hand, typical of the followers of this musical movement, but some neighbor was so offended that he mutilated two of his fingers, and thus he stayed on his pedestal, on Gorbea street.

“Goodbye rocker grandmother friend, only time separates us” reads the plaque that accompanies this monument, executed by Carmen Jorba, the only sculpture on this list, which also represents the scarce presence of female artists in the list of works in Madrid.