September 24, 2018

Phil Collins: why I took a Soviet statue of Engels across Europe to Manchester

Friedrich Engels spent two decades in Manchester. The horrific conditions he saw in the cradle of industrialism forged his great works. But the city has never commemorated him – until now

This month, the Berlin-based, British-born artist Phil Collins transported a 3.5 metre statue of Friedrich Engels from a village in eastern Ukraine, through Europe, to Britain on a flat-bed truck. Next month, during the Manchester international festival, the sculpture, a 1970s concrete image of the bearded revolutionary, will be erected in the city where he researched The Condition of the Working Class in England, its new permanent home.

Engels lived in Manchester for more than two decades in the mid-19th century, honing his revolutionary philosophy through his observations of the horrific conditions endured by the working children, women and men in that cradle of industrial capitalism. And, as Collins points out, though the philosopher’s life in Manchester is well studied and documented, there is no permanent marker to him in the city, no visual symbol of the man at all – despite the fact that his Manchester-forged thinking changed the course of 20th-century history.

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