BANGKOK — Logos of the world’s largest tech firms were removed Wednesday from a Garuda sculpture for use in the cremation of King Bhumibol in response to a surge of criticism.
Images of the standing figure – featuring familiar logos from Apple, Google and Facebook – were criticized as inappropriate for use in the Royal Crematorium as soon as they were posted online Monday evening by state media.
The post was flooded with comments criticizing use of the funeral pyre to promote corporate brands. It was shared more than 1,000 times before being deleted Wednesday afternoon.
The two-meter sculpture was created by Pitak Chalermlao, a sculptor with the government’s fine arts department.
The widely recognized tech brands had been sculpted into the garuda’s wings and buckle. They were intended to represent the rise of the internet during the reign of King Rama IX, and how he used it to solve the problems of his subjects, according to the original post.
Pitak said he was not allowed to give interviews and referred a reporter to an apology he posted on Facebook in which he also said the logos were being removed.
“Nobody might understand me today, but all I can say is that I had good intentions to telegraph from the East to the West and the world that we had a great king who they should learn about,” he wrote.
Chatri Prakitnonthakan, an associate architecture professor at Silpakorn University, said the public reaction was not surprising.
“The reason the garuda sculpture received negative comments is because it contains mundane logos which some view as inappropriate for use with a royal sculpture,” Chatri said. “Secondly, they think the logos are being used to promote products.”
The professor said the adoption of commercial imagery is not new in terms of contemporary art, as artists have routinely added a present context to their art. He cited the inclusion of political figures, spaceships or superhero characters in temple wall murals.
“I don’t think it tarnishes His Majesty’s honor or dignity as those logos are more than just brands, but they can symbolize social media,” he said.
Photos: Information Center for King Rama 9 and Pitak Chalermlao / Facebook.