Every wondered what the story was behind those bronze sculptures populating the 8th Ave/14th St ACE subway station? In this video, their creator, Tom Otterness, explains that he took the imagery for the sculptures from Gilded Age political cartoons. Too bad the artist is currently in some political hot water himself.

This spring, Otterness received a $750,000 commission from an anonymous donor to create bronze lion sculptures for the Battery Park City branch of the New York Public Library, Metro New York reports. Some cute, puffy bronze creatures would be a great addition to the building, except Otterness has a bit of a checkered history with animals: in 1977, when the artist was 25, he adopted a dog from the pound only to kill it in a video performance.

Otterness has repeatedly apologized for the work, which seems to stand at odds to his current, cartoony practice, but that still doesn’t placate PETA, who have already spoken out against the commission. I feel like in this case we should just let bygones be bygones and let the man make his lions, but this is one stain on the artist’s resume that’s not vanishing any time soon.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

2 replies on “Tom Otterness Explains His Public Subway Art”

  1. Well, lets keep in mind that PETA isn’t interested in that dog itself or in what Otterness did. They are interested in promoting PETA. I even agree with many of their basic ideas… but I still see what PETA is and how it operates.

  2. Just think Tokyo has the great Hachiko monument (to symbolize the bond between man and dog) & New York will have Tom Otterness (to symbolize man at his most violent) What A Legend for New York to remember. (Or should I say Lesson)

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