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A Modern Take on Michelangelo's "David" Through the Eyes of a Drone

Because British artist Nick Hornby’s new public sculpture, installed at Clumber Corner in Brooklyn, looks a bit eerie from the ground.
Image courtesy of Nick Hornby.

No longer just for humans, art has gone to the drones.

British artist Nick Hornby’s new public sculpture, installed at Clumber Corner in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, looks a bit eerie from the ground. An intimidatingly white, ridged pyramid, Bird God Drone's apex aggressively pierces the space directly above it. But from a bird's-eye view—or rather, a drone's-eye view—the piece takes on a different shape: that of an outline of Michelangelo’s David, extruded over 12 feet into the air.


The outline was borrowed not from the original David, but from a copy made in the late 1800s. Robotically carved, the sculpture is accurate to a mere fraction of a millimeter. And yet, Hornby says that the project was intended to be more "conceptual/poetic" as opposed to a "clever/tricksy" object. To wit: The piece juxtaposes and joins seemingly disparate aspects of modern life—nature, the divine, technology—through their ability to see the sculpture as it was meant to be seen.

Bird God Drone, 2013. Nick Hornby from Nick Hornby on Vimeo.

But even though you, reader, are (probably) neither a bird nor a god nor a drone, that doesn’t necessarily mean Bird God Drone will go right over your head. Passersby on the Brooklyn Bridge would have a decent view, as would anyone with an overlooking office. In the case that you aren’t in New York, however, Hornby also arranged a surveillance drone with attached camera to pass over the spike, which was commissioned by Two Trees Management Company as part of their public art program.

“A public artwork should be site specific,” Hornby told me. “Today, where Google compresses time and space, historic narratives about the site seem redundant. This is a public monument as Google marker that takes the idea of the statue and reorients it for YouTube.”

As for what prompted the piece—seen at the intersection of Washington and Prospect Streets in Brooklyn through Halloween 2014—and the drone component specifically, Hornby said, “It’s a nod backwards to [Italian Renaissance architect] Brunelleschi and perspective. A drone is a single point perspective, so it’s regressive and dangerous.”

But he also offered a simpler explanation. "In truth, this is just an artist trying to make a sculpture, which is a bit more interesting than a bronze man on a horse in armor!"