Queen Guitarist Brian May Weighs in on Freddie Mercury Gorilla Sculpture Dispute

Laura Ferreiro
Stop The Presses! (NEW)

By Laura Ferreiro

Talk about an 800-pound gorilla! Queen guitarist Brian May has weighed in on a dispute between Freddie Mercury's estate and the creators of a giant gorilla sculpture painted to look like the late Queen frontman.

It seems that those who run Mercury's estate took issue with the gorilla sculpture created by public art organization Wild In Art to benefit charity. The sculpture, which was on display in the city center in Norwich, England, sported Mercury's trademark mustache and a yellow military-style coat like the one the singer often wore in concert.

In a blog post May wrote for Bri's Soapbox, the famous axe man spoke out in defense of Mercury's estate, saying, "Far be it from me to make an artistic judgement on this – you can form your own opinion – but when the model was first seen, a number of people thought it was a crude and insulting effort – probably to both Freddie and the Gorilla!"

May pointed out that the Mercury Phoenix Trust asked for the gorilla to be redesigned rather than to be removed, which he thought was perfectly within their rights. "When word of this got to Freddie's estate, they asked for an approach to be made to Wild in Art, to ask them if they'd have another go at the painting of the Freddie Gorilla," May explained. "The way it was reported, it looked as if the MPT (Mercury Phoenix Trust) had 'blocked' the deployment of the statue altogether, but actually the issue had nothing to do with the MPT; plus it wasn't a block at all – simply a request for an update to the paint job, to which Wild in Art kindly agreed."

Defending the Trust's request to have the statue modified, May added, "You have to ask yourself how you'd feel if suddenly people were making effigies of your dearly departed dad or son or brother, and you felt they were disrespectful. You'd want to feel you had some kind of a right to say yes or no, to protect his reputation. That's exactly what the people who run Freddie's estate do. They try to safeguard Freddie's reputation, just as if he were still around."

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Brandbank, the gorilla's sponsor, told the BBC they were surprised by the request and are doing everything they can to resolve it. "We, like everyone else, have been taken aback by the passionate responses to the request by the Freddie Mercury estate that Radio Go Go [the gorilla] be removed due to a suggestion of possible breach of copyright," she said. "We have spoken to one of the executives of the estate and are endeavoring to see if we can resolve this so that there's a positive outcome for all the charities involved."

According to NME, the sculpture was removed from the Norwich city center for violating copyright laws. So it seems that this 800-pound gorilla can't sit anywhere it wants after all.