(photo by Jen Carlson/Gothamist, used with permission)

A guerilla installation critiquing the artist Tom Otterness’s 1977 killing of an adopted dog has appeared in the 14th Street – Eighth Avenue subway station, Gothamist reported. The station is home to Life Underground, an extensive commission of Otterness’s small bronze figures, and the surreptitious work mimics his style, mocking the artist’s lucrative career while depicting the crime that continues to cast a pall over his reputation.

Otterness, who in 2011 claimed to earn millions of dollars annually from public and private commissions, has frequently found himself the target of protest over his “Shot Dog Film”; a 2011 San Francisco project of his was canceled over objections from animal-rights groups. In 2004, when Otterness was included in the New Museum’s East Village USA exhibition, Gary Indiana mercilessly objected, writing in New York that he was “a sculptor of limitless nonentity … [who] once upon a time, adopted a dog and then shot it to death for the fun of recording his infantile, sadistic depravity on film.” The artist officially apologized for the Shot Dog piece in a statement to The Brooklyn Eagle in 2007 when the controversy resurfaced in connection with a DUMBO commission.

This isn’t the first time illicit artworks have mimicked the aesthetics of authorized subway art. In 2012, the street artist Rae inserted a sculptural work in the stairwell of the A/C/E subway station on Spring Street that echoed the style and palette of a larger official installation in the station. The piece has reportedly avoided detection as unauthorized and remains in place.


A new image shows a smaller third figure, depicting a man holding a camera (referring to Otterness’s artistic documentation of his act) that was part of the installation (image courtesy Gothamist)

Update 1, 1:15pm EDT: Gothamist has revised their story to reflect comment they have received from the MTA, which is now removing the sculpture (apparently made of plaster), and to add a statement from Andrew Tider, the artist behind the piece, who writes (in part):

“The piece was not really about calling Otterness out for the Shot Dog video. It’s about calling him out for not including himself in Life Underground.

Life Underground seems to be about (among other things) corruption and questioning unchecked capitalism. The sculptures I added place Otterness (the shooter figure) within the system that he (as the artist) is wagging his finger at.

Update 2, 6:01pm EDT: The work has been removed. Here’s what remains:


(photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

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Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

4 replies on “Out, Damned “Spot”! Guerilla Work Dogs Canine-Killing Artist [UPDATE 2]”

  1. While I recognize that folks are still steamed at Otterness for shooting that dog 37 years ago and they have every right to address that grievance, installations like these have the perverse effect of promoting the artist and his most infamous work. Who would remember “Shot Dog Film” except for the efforts of people objecting to it? How many Google hits will that piece get this week courtesy of these efforts? And does promoting that infamous piece actually address the perceived injustice the artist committed (and has subsequently apologized for)?

  2. Enough already. Perhaps many of us have things in our past we are not proud of and now regret. Tom Otterness is a terrific artist and there is no need to make him suffer now for something he did so many years ago. Leave the guy alone. Though the Bible is not my favorite text, let he who is without sin . . . etc. (John 8:7).

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