By DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — The 7.6-meter-tall sculpture of a crashing shark on the roof of Magnus Hanson-Heine’s home in rural Oxford, England, is now a protected monument — and it is no ‘m not happy with it.
Hanson-Heine loves the installation, erected by his father and a local sculptor in 1986 as an anti-war and anti-nuclear protest that still remains relevant as bombs fall on Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin waves its nuclear weapons.
But he says Oxford City Council ignored his father’s other message this week when he designated the structure as a heritage site which makes a “special contribution” to the community. Bill Heine installed the shark without the approval of local officials because he didn’t think they should have the right to decide what art people see, and the council has spent years trying to remove the sculpture.
“Using the planning apparatus to preserve a historic symbol of defiance of planning law is absurd on its face,” Hanson-Heine, a quantum chemist, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
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Bill Heine, an American expat who studied law at Oxford University, came up with the idea for the sculpture after hearing American warplanes flying overhead one night in April 1986. When he woke up the next morning to learn that the planes had been on their way to bomb Tripoli in retaliation for Libya’s sponsorship of terrorist attacks against American troops.
The image of a shark crashing through the roof captured the shock civilians must feel when bombs crash into their homes, Magnus Hanson-Heine said. Her father died in 2019.
Heine and his friend sculptor John Buckley built the tall fiberglass blank, then installed it on August 9, the 41st anniversary of the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
The shark’s anti-war message is just as important today as Russian bombs are falling on Ukraine, Henson-Heine said.
“It’s obviously something Ukrainians are going through in real time right now,” he said. “But certainly when there are nukes on stage, which has been going through my whole life, it’s always a very real threat.”
But the three-quarter view of a great white shark peeking out from the roof of a row of brick houses on a quiet suburban street isn’t always a serious subject.
The Shark House has its own website, which features photos of Bill Heine and Buckley sharing a glass of wine next to the sculpture and a young passerby in a pose that looks like she’s eating the shark.
Hanson-Heine recently had it repainted to restore the blue-green shimmer of the shark’s skin – keeping it in pristine condition.
He laughs when asked if the shark’s head is inside the house.
“I believe it was an urban myth for a while that he was pushing over the toilet,” he said. “But no.”
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