The Fist

This unique sculpture caught my eye on a recent drive through Detroit and my brother-in-law Paul was kind enough to drive by it a couple of times so I could take some photos. This art piece is called The Fist and is a tribute to the boxer Joe Louis who was born in Detroit and was the heavyweight champion of the world from 1937-1950. It was commissioned by Sports Illustrated magazine and cost $350,000. Weighing 8000 pounds, 24 feet long and 24 feet high it was dedicated on October 16, 1986. Joe Louis died in 1981.

Joe Louis was the first African American to become a national hero when he helped shatter the German myth of Nazi supremacy by beating German fighter Max Schmeling in 1938. He helped to fight Jim Crow laws in the United States. Some say the fist in this sculpture by Mexican American artist Robert Graham is aimed at racial injustice.

This sculpture has created some controversy. Some critics say it doesn’t reflect Joe Louis’ generous spirit or his gentle funny nature. Other people like The Fist because they say it shows Louis’ determination, endurance and creative energy. 

Artist Ed Hamilton felt so strongly that The Fist was not a fitting tribute to Joe Louis that he created a statue of his own of the fighter which is located in the Cobo Centre next to the Joe Louis Arena. 

This August  The Fist was at the centre of a controversy again when artist Jerry Vile placed a large sculpture of a can of Crisco underneath The Fist. He called his sculpture Vessel of Hope. It was removed the same day by the city and Vile sold it on e-bay shortly after.  

The Fist is an eye-catching piece and whether or not you agree that it is a fitting tribute to Joe Louis it certainly puts a symbol of his legacy front and centre in his hometown. 

Other posts about Detroit……….

The Heidelberg Project

Detroit Tigers In the Pink

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Filed under Art, History, Politics, Sports

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