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10 Ice Sculptures Worth Their Weight in Cold

Rodin’s Thinker, Michelangelo’s David, the Venus de Milo … these iconic sculptures have earned their place in the pantheon of the world’s most acclaimed works of art. But there’s something to be said for temporality as well; while marble and bronze creations will surely endure indefinitely under the auspices of the museums that house them, these breathtaking ice sculptures survived only as long as the temperature cooperated.

Fairbanks, Alaska (2006)

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If there were any doubt that mermaids exist, this hyper-realistic sculpture, entitled Mysterious Pearl, puts it to rest. The ethereal seascape, by artists Junichi Nakamura, Shinichi Sawamura, Dan Rebholz, and Derek Maxfield, took second-place honors in the multiblock realistic category at the 2006 World Ice Art Championships, held for the last twenty-plus years in Fairbanks. Think the Splash-era Darryl Hannah could shatter this crystalline masterpiece with her earth-splitting scream? _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden (2007)

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The winter 2010–11 season marks the twenty-first anniversary of ICEHOTEL, a residence-in-progress made entirely of ice in Sweden’s Lapland region. Each week from December to April, when the project is ongoing, a new section of ICEHOTEL opens to guests, who come from all over the world to witness this ultra-ambitious construction project firsthand. This image, of the hotel’s main hall, barely scratches the surface of the frozen majesty concealed within. _Photo source:" Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Harbin, China (2009)

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Once under Russian rule, Harbin is now the tenth-largest city in China. It’s acknowledged as a cultural, economic, and scientific center, but it’s known best of all for its monthlong International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, held since 1963, which displays colorful, unfathomably grandiose ice and snow structures like this pagoda. _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Fairbanks, Alaska (2010)

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Artist Dawson List spent approximately ninety hours sculpting Cool Brees, his homage to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, that team’s 2010 Super Bowl victory, and the people of the post–Hurricane Katrina Gulf Coast. The nine-foot-tall ice carving features the phrase “Who dat!!” at its base, in a nod to Saints fans’ favorite saying, “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” Many of the proceeds from the project went toward the Brees Dream Foundation, which supports child-, cancer-, and Katrina-related causes. _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Ottowa, Ontario, Canada (2010)

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At Winterlude, an annual outdoor extravaganza created in 1979 to celebrate Canada’s climate and culture, the world’s largest ice-skating rink and the biggest snow playground in North America are certainly nothing to scoff at, but it’s the ice-sculpting competition that really dazzles the eye and delights the mind. During the day, world-renowned ice carvers gather to shape their creations, which become multicolored, illuminated treasures by night. In the 2010 contest, this exquisite piece by Hiroaki Kimura and Masaki Takahashi, called Kimono, won first place in the pairs category. _Photo source: "www.canadascapital.gc.ca":http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/_

London, UK (2006)

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Some two hundred thousand Russian speakers live in London; in their honor, the Russian Winter Festival is held each year in the city’s famed Trafalgar Square. This large-scale ice sculpture, a replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, welcomed revelers to the 2006 event. Four Russian sculptors constructed it using twelve tons of ice; in a demonstration of cross-cultural goodwill, an ice sculpture of Big Ben was created in Moscow at the same time. _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Madurodam, Netherlands (2006)

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Did you know you can tour the whole of the Netherlands in a single day? Madurodam, a 1:25 scale model of the country, features a re-creation of every landmark and monument in miniature. To enhance the intrigue even further, the site occasionally hosts exhibitions showcasing life-size ice sculptures by Chinese artists, such as this mind-bendingly detailed stagecoach, which appeared at the 2006 event. _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Saint Paul, Minnesota (2004)

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Legend has it that the oldest and largest winter celebration in the United States, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, was born of a revenge fantasy, following a New York reporter’s claim in 1885 that the city was “unfit for human habitation” in wintertime. To prove the residents’ year-round vim and vigor, the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce established what’s now known as the Coolest Celebration on Earth. If this massive ice palace from the 2004 festival is any indication, the chilly city isn’t just inhabited these days, but thriving. _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Sapporo, Japan (2007)

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Approximately two million visitors per year travel to Japan for the express purpose of marveling at the snow and ice sculptures on display at the Sapporo Snow Festival, which began humbly in 1950, when a small group of high school students created six snow sculptures for public viewing in a park. Five years later, the Japan Self-Defense Forces from a nearby military base contributed their brains and brawn and conceived the large-scale frozen monuments—such as these abstract monoliths on display at the 2007 festival—for which the event is now world-famous. _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

Fairbanks, Alaska (2002)

10 / 10

The phrase “frozen movement” may seem oxymoronic, but that’s only because you haven’t yet witnessed this sculpture by Vladimir Zhikhartsev and Sergei Loginov, which captures perfectly the tension between an inanimate block of ice and the longing for liberation of a female figure alit from within. This play between hot and cold, fire and ice, was surely what earned this work first place in the abstract single block category of the 2002 World Ice Art Championships. _Photo source: "Wikimedia Commons":http://bit.ly/aFLCCE_

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