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Today, Donald Trump stood nude in the center of Union Square. Well, a life-size, clay sculpture of him — and wow, is it unforgiving. Like Illma Gore’s infamous portrait of the Republican presidential nominee come to life, the hollow work has a micropenis adorned with golden curls, lying below a bulbous, sagging belly. His butt is pockmarked like the surface of the moon, wrinkles line his face like creases on a carrot, and varicose veins crawl all over his pale body, which is tinged pink. You could spot him, based on his signature blonde hair, from far off, but up close there are surprising details: his nails are painted pink, he wears a masonic ring, and a plaque at his feet reads, “THE EMPEROR HAS NO BALLS ~ INDECLINE.” The word “Ginger” is also etched into the statue’s base.
A collective of guerrilla street artists, Indecline recently claimed to have created the largest work of illegal graffiti in the world, but its members work anonymously. (They also have a controversial track record, explored by Vandalog earlier this year.) Chess players who set up their tables at Union Square this morning told Hyperallergic that they witnessed two middle-aged, white men plant the sculpture on the plaza around 9:40 am; the men were allegedly dressed as construction workers, wearing red helmets as they carried the work underneath a plastic sheet, which they removed before quickly taking off.
According to the Washington Post, the sculpture is titled “The Emperor Has No Balls” and took four months to realize. “Ginger” reportedly refers to a Las Vegas–based artist who conceived of and created the statue using 300 pounds of clay and silicone.
“Like it or not, Trump is a larger-than-life figure in world culture at the moment,” an Indecline spokesperson told the Post. “Looking back in history, that’s how those figures were memorialized and idolized in their time — with statues.”
Workers removed the statue around 1:20pm, but at noon, when Hyperallergic visited, crowds had swarmed the piece, either having spotted pictures of it on social media or simply passing by on their way to work. Everyone was laughing and jostling to snap selfies; people touched it and marveled at its accuracy. Many described it as “amazing,” although one woman grimaced, calling it “scary.” Some commented on the construction, noting a large seam running down Trump’s thigh that marks where Ginger clearly affixed two separate pieces together.
“I think it’s a good political statement,” Tyler Donnellan, an audio and visual installer who works in the area, told Hyperallergic. “Like how open to the public he is, rather than how Trump is very closed off to everyone. The statue is there for the people of America. Now we get to see him for what he really is than what he portrays himself as.”
A pair of NYPD officers observing the scene from afar told Hyperallergic they were trying to find the work’s owner.
“If it’s got an owner, it’s freedom of artistic expression,” one simply said.
Update, 8/18, 4:10pm: NYC Parks sent Hyperallergic the following statement after it removed the piece:
NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.
Update, 8/19, 12:34pm: The Union Square statue was one of five Indecline planted across the country, with nude Trumps bearing all in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Cleveland as well. The one in Cleveland disappeared quickly, and officials removed the San Francisco one overnight. LA’s nude Trump, according to the LA Times, now resides inside a local gift shop and gallery, and may remain pending approval from the city attorney. Meanwhile, owners of a thrift store in Seattle literally grabbed the statue, saving it from getting impounded, and it now lives among other bizarre artifacts, including a figure of ET.