The 26.2ft public artwork is linked to the city's Coat of Arms

Belfast Harbour has officially
unveiled a landmark public artwork as part of its 400th anniversary celebrations.

The eight-metre high Seahorse sculpture has been installed at Dargan Road, where
it will welcome thousands of daily visitors to the Harbour on what is the
Port’s busiest entrance.

The ‘Belfast Seahorse’ is the work
of internationally-acclaimed German sculptor and University of Ulster Reader Ralf
Sander, whose portfolio includes major projects in South Korea, the US and

Made of highly polished stainless steel and resting on an enlarged
shipping bollard, the sculpture is designed to reflect the surrounding
environment in a kaleidoscopic fashion.

Historic connections

The seahorse has strong connections
to Belfast’s origins and maritime history, with the city’s first merchants printing
the mythical creature on their coins throughout the 17th century.
The seahorse also forms part of Belfast’s official crest, with further links
visible at Belfast ‘Inst’ (RBAI). The school was founded by Belfast merchants
and retains numerous references to the Seahorse in its sports teams.

Belfast Harbour chairman Len
O’Hagan said: ‘This landmark project represents a
major investment in the cultural infrastructure of Belfast.

‘We are extremely
proud of the Harbour’s contribution to the arts and we believe the Belfast
Seahorse will very soon become one of the city’s most iconic images.

‘As well as the many close
historical links to the city of Belfast and its emerging Port, there are a
number of myths and legends surrounding the Seahorse which add to the mystique
of the sculpture.

‘Mr Sander and his team at the University of Ulster have
invested a great deal of creative and physical energy in this project and I
commend them on what is an inspirational piece of public art.’

The artist

Among Ralf Sander’s other projects
are the ‘Lady Bird Transformation’ mirage at the Busan Film Centre in South
Korea and the World Saving Machine at the Crane Arts Centre in Philadelphia.

to the unusual techniques which the team used to shape and cast the stainless
steel Seahorse, much of the construction work was carried out in an advanced
foundry in South Korea.

Mr Sander said: ‘I like to play with double
meanings. The Belfast Seahorse has the clarity of icons but its outlines make
the familiar seem strange through unlikely shifts in form.

‘I think the concept
is not following clichés of taste and style but there might be a little
Postmodernist spirit embedded in the concept. Casting stainless steel is still
uncommon in large scale sculpture and we improved the technique.

‘Dancing on an enlarged shipping
bollard, the body of the seahorse is the powerful spiral shape of a small
twister. It also has the quality of a mirage as it is possible to recognize
human profiles in the body if you look close enough.’