History and Symbolism of the Firebird Statue

••• By Bechtler via Wikimedia Commons

Location: Outside the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art (420 S Tryon St)

Designer: French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle

Installation Date: 2009

Affectionately known as "Disco Chicken" by area residents, the shimmering Firebird sculpture was installed in 2009, and stands at the entrance of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art on Tryon Street. The statue stands over 17 feet tall and weighs over 1,400 pounds.

The entire statue is covered from top to bottom in over 7,500 pieces of mirrored and colored glass. The piece was created in 1991 by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, and purchased by Andreas Bechtler specifically for placement at the front of the museum. It has traveled from city to city on display, but Charlotte is its first permanent home. When Bechtler purchased the piece, he said that he wanted art he wanted, "not just an iconic piece, but also one people would enjoy."

Most people at first glance think that the statue is of a bird with incredibly large legs and what appears to be flowing pants (hence the Disco Chicken nickname) or even bowed legs. Closer inspection though, or a look at the statue's official name, "Le Grand Oiseau de Feu sur l’Arche" or "Large Firebird on an Arch" shows that it actually depicts a bird-like creature sitting on a large arch.

The sculpture is very popular with visitors, and it likely Charlotte's most popular piece of public art.

It's quickly become an icon of Uptown, being featured in many publications. It's become such an attraction that the Charlotte Observer usually hosts a Firebird photography contest.

The statue does have to be repaired several times annually. The museum's curator replaces broken tiles by hand, cutting each one to fit perfectly in the old spot.

The most common cause of repair? Nocturnal skateboarders in Uptown.

Charlotte is home to plenty of excellent public art, much of it Uptown, such as the il Grande Disco and the four statues in the middle of Uptown.