Johnny Depp is back! Brummies joke about ‘wakeful bullshit’ statue of Queen Victoria

It is the art installation of a boat igniting a storm that some people love, others hate and the open minded recognize that ‘Foreign Exchange’ serves to explore the history of the city prior to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

Whether the timing and venue were appropriate — exactly a week after Queen Elizabeth’s platinum anniversary and just weeks before the Games — is an entirely different argument. Birmingham Civic Centre, which helped pay for the statue’s restoration in 2018, described the new look as ‘woke up rubbish’ and a ‘desecration’.

‘Foreign Exchange’ shows several Queen Victorias in a boat and after the work was launched earlier this week atop the 1901 image of Queen Victoria, Linda Hirons only thought of Pirates of the Caribbean. “Blimey, I thought Johnny Depp had arrived,” she joked on our Facebook page, referring to the actor’s recent public appearances in the city following his high-profile US trial with Amber Heard.

Read more:Watch the moment Johnny Depp walks out of the hotel in Birmingham, met by screaming fans

Queen Victoria’s most famous quote, “We are not amused,” may never have been said, depending on which source you believe. But our readers can always see the funny side of life and this is what some others have said about Foreign Exchange after our report on its launch…

In another cinematic rendering, Paul Miller wrote: “The monster resembles a Terry Gilliam creation for one of his fantasy films, crossed with a 1960s Blue Peter project, made of lollipop sticks, sticky-backed plastic, squeeze bottles, scraps of old shirts, peat roll cardboard inner tubes… no doubt all held together with Copydex glue. What a great impression this will make on visitors!”



Reader Linda Hirons thought Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp had returned when she saw the boat-shaped ‘Foreign Exchange’ art installation atop Victoria Square’s Queen Victoria statue

James Houghton added: “Foreign exchange is why you have to mortgage to cover the fuel and park to go and see it.”

Andrea Green: “Imagine if someone had done this for fun, like the hot tub at the Floozie! Just shows that ‘art’ depends on how much has been spent.”

Dawn Louise asked “Why is one eye covered – examination!!!!”; Simon Davies wondered: “What the hell is awake? I mean, I woke up this morning”, and Mat Hill added: “Royalists should be happy. There are now six!”

those who are in favor

Tony Scott-Robinson wrote, “I prefer it, when art provokes a response, it essentially fulfills its purpose. To me, great art is something that evokes both emotion and thought. What this installation has achieved.”

Stewart Meikle added: “I don’t see the problem with it myself. It’s not really my thing, but it looks harmless. Or is there some secret message I missed in it?”

vote against

Dawn Hainsworth wrote, “There was nothing wrong with the original image which is synonymous with Victoria Square.”

Kim Adams added: “Once again nonsense. What a terrible waste of money.”

Marie Loveland said, “The old one was better. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, leave our history alone.” Alan Heywood reasoned: “It’s wrong to disfigure her. Could have left her as she was and was meant to be” and Ann Bradley added: “I don’t think it’s offensive. But a big no from me.”



Exactly one week after Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee concert, the 'Foreign Exchange' art installation was placed atop Queen Victoria's statue in Birmingham
Exactly one week after Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee concert, the ‘Foreign Exchange’ art installation was placed atop Queen Victoria’s statue in Birmingham

Tsvetomira Vincent wrote: “Terrible and a huge waste of money! Aren’t there any sane people on those committees?!”

Ricardo Mendoza added: “Is our council ashamed of our city, history and culture?” and Tariq Ali argued, “Stop wasting coins and mend the roads.”

David Longstreet said: “Take that monstrosity away, it’s terrible”, while Susan Heath added: “It’s despicable. Such a monstrosity in one of the prettiest parts of the city centre. I certainly won’t come and see it.”

The statue of Queen Victoria

The original statue was unveiled as a marble work 12 days before the reigning monarch’s death in 1901, and was recast in bronze in 1951. the Birmingham Civic Center this week dubbed the new installation on top of it as “wake junk” and “desecration.”

It is managed on behalf of Birmingham City Council by Birmingham Museums Trust, who said in a statement to BirminghamLive: “Birmingham Museums Trust provides a large number of public works of art and statues from the city on behalf of Birmingham City Council.



Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

“The Trust has been involved in the planning and preparations for Foreign Exchange since the idea was first conceived, to ensure that the historic statue of Queen Victoria is unharmed and in good condition for the long term.

“The project has been led by IKON, in partnership with Birmingham City Council, Birmingham 2022 Festival and in consultation with the city’s Public Art Gateway Group, of which the Birmingham Museums Trust is a member.

“As part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival cultural program, Foreign Exchange offers the opportunity to bring renewed attention and a wider audience to the statue of Queen Victoria in the heart of the city district, to see the statue and Queen Victoria in an alternative and through a different ‘lens’ that brings out new stories related to empire and colonialism.



A wider view of the 'Foreign Exchange' statue in Victoria Square by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke in collaboration with Ikon Gallery
A wider view of the ‘Foreign Exchange’ statue in Victoria Square by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke in collaboration with Ikon Gallery

“Birmingham Museums Trust recently acquired a sculpture by Hew Locke entitled ‘Souvenir 9 (Queen Victoria)’ which is currently on display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and has been well received by visitors to the partially reopened museum.”

How it was funded?

A misconception seems to be that Birmingham City Council (BCC) had funded the work of Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke. when financed elsewhere.

Although the installation is on BCC grounds in front of his own town hall and on top of a statue he owns, the municipality did not comment on the installation on Monday when BirminghamLive asked him, ahead of the installation’s official launch on Tuesday.



Can you already tell what it is?  The 'Foreign Exchange' statue in Victoria Square by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke in collaboration with Ikon Gallery against the colorful pre Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games backdrop of Birmingham City Hall
Can you already tell what it is? The ‘Foreign Exchange’ statue in Victoria Square by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke in collaboration with Ikon Gallery against the colorful pre Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games backdrop of Birmingham City Hall

Culture cabinet minister Cllr Jayne Francis (Lab., Harborne) was finally quoted on Tuesday afternoon – in the footnotes of a press release issued in London on behalf of Ikon and the Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Cllr Francis, who describes herself on Twitter as a ‘Feminist and proud mother of a feminist daughter’, said: “What an amazing and inspiring piece of art to welcome the world to Birmingham! Our city is fantastically diverse and a true cultural center that we want to celebrate, not just as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, but well into the future, leaving a real heritage for the city and its people.

“Foreign Exchange is public art at its finest; thought-provoking, dynamic, daring and fun – a perfect fit for our bold and brilliant city. Thank you Hew and thank Ikon for making this possible.”

As for the actual cost, a London-based spokesperson for the installation said: ” currencies is presented by the Birmingham 2022 Festival on behalf of Ikon. The Birmingham 2022 Festival is funded by Arts Council England and the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Additional support for the project was awarded to Ikon from the Henry Moore Foundation and through the Ikon Investment Fund. The festival will close on September 30, 2022 and an evaluation report, including costs of commissions, will be published as soon as practicable upon closure of the party.”

+ If you’re going to see the artwork for yourself this weekend, let us know what you think in the comments below.

Read more:Floozie attack makes you wonder if we can’t have any more fun in Birmingham

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