Tom Otterness

Born 1952.
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Tom Otterness Biography

Tom Otterness is a Contemporary American sculptor and prolific public artist. Among his most famous works are Playground, installed on 630 West 42nd St. in New York, and Life Underground, installed in New York’s 14th Street-Eighth Avenue Station. A balloon designed by Otterness, depicting an upside-down Humpty Dumpty, flies during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Employing his signature style, which can be described as cartoonish and cheery, Otterness explores complex political themes of class, race, sex and capitalism in his sculptures.

Tom Otterness was born in 1952 in Wichita, Kansas. In 1970, Otterness arrived in New York to study at the Art Students League of New York; in 1973, he took part in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Otterness became involved in New York’s Collaborative Projects in 1977, participating in the Colab’s famous 1980 Times Square Show.

In 1986, Otterness was commissioned to create a public sculpture in Battery Park City, a community on the western tip of Manhattan – the work, entitled The Real World, was installed in 1992. Other notable public projects include Life Underground, installed in 2000 in New York; The Marriage of Money and Real Estate, installed in 1996 in New York’s East River; The New World, installed in 1991 in Los Angeles; Law of Nature, installed in 1997 in Portland, Oregon; Gold Rush, installed in 1999 in Sacramento, California; and Rock Man, installed in 1999 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2002, New York Times art critic Ken Johnson wrote that Otterness was perhaps “the world’s best public sculptor.” (Ken Johnson, Art in Review: Tom Otterness. The New York Times, 3 May 2002.)

Today, Otterness continues to live and work in Brooklyn, New York. His sculptures reside in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Eli Broad Family Foundation, Los Angeles; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

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Artist Image: Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo