Rocky at the Art Museum, in 2006
Not even Claes Oldenburg's "Clothespin" across from City Hall generated the passionate debate provoked by this 8' 6" bronze "Rocky" statue — arms raised in victory — commissioned by Sylvester Stallone for his 1982 "Rocky III," a film series that seemed never to end. The bronze boxer stood at the top of the Art Museum's 72-step entrance, and when the filming was completed, the actor left the statue in place as a gift to the city. City Commerce Director Dick Doran was thrilled with the gift saying Stallone had done more for the city's image "than anyone since Ben Franklin."
Cultural and museum officials were horrified, terming the statue an ugly "movie prop." The public flooded the newspapers and city Art Commission with tons of mail, pro and con. The debate raged for months. Polls showed Philadephians equally divided. "Put it near the Liberty Bell," wrote a Daily News reader. "Dump it in the Schuylkill," wrote another. Countless tourists and residents climbed the steps to see and be photographed next to Rocky. People who had never been inside the museum at least got close to the entrance. In the end, the Art Commission decided the Spectrum sports arena sidewalk was the logical address for the fictional heavyweight contender, where it stood until late summer 2006.
The whole emotional tempest blew up anew in 1990 when the statue was temporarily placed atop the Museum steps for "Rocky V" then returned to the Spectrum again.
In 2006, on the 30th anniversary of the original "Rocky" film, the 2000 pound statue by A. Thomas Schomberg, was moved once again, to the base of the steps of the Art Museum, where you can visit it today.
For all the debate among the board of the Art Museum, there is no debate among tour guides regarding the lasting fame the Rocky saga brought to Philadelphia and to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Thousands still climb the steps and strike a Rocky-like pose. And by now there are countless cellphone snaphots of visitors posing alongside the bronze boxer. Few foreign visitors know or care about Betsy Ross, Carpenters' Hall, or Oney Judge, but their eyes light up in recognition when they see the Museum's steps and the statue of Rocky near the base.