Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Big, Big Penny

Location:   Sixth Avenue (Avenue of The Americas), Manhattan
Year:   1993 

The entrance of 1325 Avenue of the Americas is not on the Avenue of the Americas; it's not even on what New Yorkers still call Sixth Avenue. Nope, it's on 53rd Street and 6th and 1/2 Avenue. Yes, there is a 6th and 1/2 Avenue. Only in New York!

Sculptor Tom Otterness (born 1952) has created a plethora of whimsical street art in New York City, often with his tongue jammed firmly in his cheek, but usually with a social conscience. 

In 1977, Otterness stupidly shot a dog on film in a bizarre and half-witted attempt at creating performance art. This caused a still-remembered uproar, and Otterness has been castigated ever since. As a result, the City has officially refused to display his works, though private sources do.   

One has to wonder why Otterness didn't just use the gun on himself if he wanted to make a statement. This post is in no way an endorsement of Otterness' callous treatment of a living thing, only an exploration of an unusual sculpture in New York City.

Since then, Otterness has worked with sculpture only. For which we may all be thankful.

The Big, Big Penny is an allegorical six foot high, five and one-half (there's the other 1/2!) wide by one foot thick giant copy of the reverse side of a Lincoln Penny. Small figures in top hats, dwarfed by the penny, are quaffing champagne at the top at the penny. A serving woman is making certain her employer does not topple over.  

At the bottom right of the penny are three workers in hard hats, attempting to roll the penny while fourth person, on the lower right, is being crushed beneath it. 

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