Design for living: China’s giant Selfie Panda

The Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman makes enormous versions of ordinary things. Since 2007, his most famous work, a 19m-high yellow rubber duckie, has been sailing into harbours around the world, including Darling Harbour in Sydney in 2014.

Selfie Panda was installed this year in the Chinese city of Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, partly in homage to a real giant panda that roamed the city’s downtown area in 2005. The artwork is 26.5m long and weighs 130 tonnes, with fur made from three million lacquered stainless-steel wires screwed into an aluminium body.

You’re invited to take selfies with it, using an app that shows your photo on the LED screen of the panda’s own phone.

Some critics think Hofman “infantilises” the role of public art. Hofman laughs at that. “A lot of art is bought by people who have money,” he says. “I’m a supporter of public art in public spaces.” Thinking big is fun and “the trick is to be fearless”.

Dujiangyan is a centre for panda conservation. The city’s cultural tourism centre says Selfie Panda “creates a clever social commentary, offering large-scale community engagement and attracting global attention”. How about a giant moa straddling the midtown intersection on Queen St?

Design for Living is a Canvas magazine series exploring bright ideas that make cities better.

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