May speaks out on Freddie ‘gorilla’ art
Brian May has defended the estate of late Queen bandmate Freddie Mercury after they demanded a change to a sculpture.
A Norwich art trail called Go Go Gorillas commissioned a statue in the shape of a primate which was then painted in the style of Mercury’s trademark yellow jacketed outfit.
When Queen manager Jim Beach asked for it to be removed, it was suggested that he was effectively censoring art and artist Mik Richardson, who created the work.
Now May says on his website: “The organisation that puts the scheme of ‘painted statue animals’ together is a company called Wild In Art. These guys produced this particular gorilla-shaped effigy, which they evidently had someone paint up in a yellow Freddie Wembley outfit and stick some teeth and a moustache on.
“Far be it from me to make an artistic judgement on this – you can form your own opinion – but when the model was first seen, a number of people thought it was a crude and insulting effort.
“Freddie’s estate asked Wild In Art if they’d have another go. The way it was reported, it looked as if the Mercury Phoenix Trust has blocked the deployment of the statue.
“But it wasn’t a block at all, simply a request for an update to the paint job, to which Wild In Art kindly agreed.”
May believes it’s an important part of preserving the integrity of the Queen icon’s memory.
“You have to ask yourself how you’d feel if suddenly people were making effigies of your dearly departed dad or son or brother, and you felt they were disrespectful.
“You’d want to feel you had some kind of a right to say yes or no, to protect his reputation. That’s exactly what the people who run Freddie’s estate do. They try to safeguard Freddie’s reputation, just as if he were still around.”
The guitarist points out that there are commercial arguments in play because Wild In Art donate some of their income to charities, they’re still a profit-making organisation.
“The estate could have taken a more lenient view,” he admits. “But if they had, it would be open season. There would be nothing to stop any number of companies like this making Freddie elephants or antelopes, or whatever, distorting Freddie’s features just as they felt inclined, and making loads of money from lots of well-meaning people who might well feel they were contributing directly to a charity.”
He says an updated version of the artwork is set to appear in Norwich next week.