Art and Controversy in Philadelphia
The Rocky Statue and the Philadelphia Museum of Art
You've arrived at the last stop of the tour.
In front of you is one of Philadelphia’s top tourist attractions, The Rocky Statue. It’s not uncommon to see a queue of visitors lined up to get a picture with this film icon.
We’ve had a decent walk, so if you’d like to rest, you can take a seat on the Art Museum steps to your left, while I finish up the tour. You’re sure to see a visitor or two running up the steps and striking their best Rocky pose at the top.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Just in case you aren’t familiar with the film, Rocky is a story set in Philadelphia, about a working class, small time boxer, who is given the chance to fight the boxing World Champion. There is a training montage in the film, that commences with Rocky running up The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps, striking a triumphant fists-in-the-air pose at the top.
The character of Rocky is enthusiastically embraced by film fans, sports fans, and Philadelphians. He has become a symbol of the triumph of the common man.
Much to the Art Museum’s chagrin, the Art Museum Steps are more commonly known as The Rocky Steps.
Rocky became a highly successful film franchise.
For the filming of Rocky lll, a bronze statue of the famous boxer was placed at the top of The Art Museum Steps. Once the shoot was finished, Sylvester Stallone, the actor who plays Rocky, donated the statue to Philadelphia. If the steps weren’t already a top tourist attraction, the addition of the statue, had people coming in droves.
The rumor is The Philadelphia Museum of Art became jealous. Multitudes of tourists were making their way to the top of the Art Museum Steps, but only a few were actually making their way inside the museum. The crowds were there for Rocky.
The Art Commission of Philadelphia met, and determined that the Rocky Statue was a film prop and was not art. Thus it was completely distasteful to have it sitting atop the Art Museum Steps. So, the film prop was moved to the now demolished, Spectrum arena. This was because the powers that be felt that since boxing was a sport, the statue belonged somewhere sports related.
The statue’s move outraged tourists and Philadelphians. Whether the statue was or was not art didn’t matter to the common man Rocky represented. The common man felt Rocky’s rightful place was the Art Museum steps.
The statue made an appearance on the steps once again to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary. It was at this time, that the statue was declared a piece of film history. Still not considered art, the statue was not permitted to stay at the top of the Art Museum steps, but the Art Commission compromised, creating a home for Rocky at the bottom of and to the side of the steps.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Our tour is now at its end. I hope you enjoyed learning about some of Philadelphia’s art controversies. Now if you’re feeling up to it, I recommend having a run up the Rocky Steps and striking your best fists-in-the-air pose at the top. Goodbye.