Philadelphia Rocky Balboa - or more specifically, a statue of the Hollywood palooka, boxing gloves raised in triumph - is being restored to a spot outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the winner by a split decision in a bout between fine art and pop culture.
Despite complaints that the statue is a piece of kitsch undeserving of display near Renoirs and Monets, the city Art Commission voted 6-2 Wednesday to move the 2,000-pound bronze out of storage and put it on a street-level pedestal near the museum steps.
The steps were the setting for one of the most famous scenes in Sylvester Stallone's 1976 movie "Rocky" and have been a big tourist attraction ever since, with visitors to Philadelphia imitating the Italian Stallion's sweat-suited dash to the top.
The 8-foot-6 Rocky is expected to be on his granite pedestal in time for a dedication ceremony Friday. "We're thrilled," said city Commerce Director Stephanie Naidoff. "What more wonderful a symbol of hard work and dedication is there than Rocky?"
The two commission members who voted against the move, artist Moe Brooker and University of the Arts president Miguel Angel Corzo, said the site was inappropriate.
"It's not a work of art and ... it doesn't belong there," said Brooker, a professor at Moore College of Art and Design. Rocky's battle to the top "is a concept, it is an idea, and ideas don't need justification in terms of objects."
Corzo suggested that he might resign from the commission over the vote, saying that placing the pugilist near the museum goes against the commission's desire to "raise the standards of the city."
But the majority of commissioners who approved the move said Rocky has become synonymous with Philadelphia.
The sculpture by A. Thomas Schomberg was commissioned by Stallone for a scene in "Rocky III" (1982) and also appeared in "Rocky V" (1990). After the third Rocky installment, Stallone donated the statue to the city - and the real fight began.
The statue was installed at the top of the museum steps, but was removed after just a few months when museum officials and art aficionados argued that it was merely a movie prop and that its "exaggerated proportions and caricature" would sully the internationally renowned museum's image.
Rocky was moved to a spot at the city's sports stadium complex in South Philadelphia. It was moved again and eventually warehoused after filming began on the latest installment of the saga, "Rocky Balboa," which hits theaters in December.
This week's dedication ceremony caps a week of festivities celebrating the 30th anniversary of the original "Rocky" movie.