A Brooklyn artist who has sparked outrage for killing a dog for a film received two other commissions from The City in addition to the $750,000 Central Subway contract he was awarded in June.
In 2010, Tom Otterness won a $700,000 art contract for his proposed Mother with Children sculpture, planned for prominent placement in the rebuilt San Francisco General Hospital when it opens in 2015. Hospital visitors coming from Potrero Avenue would be greeted by a large bronze sculpture that “celebrates the joy of a new baby and the role that hospitals play in providing health services in the community,” according to an Arts Commission description.
The City has paid the artist $365,750 so far, according to Kate Patterson, spokeswoman for the Arts Commission, which approves artist selections for public works projects.
In June, the commission awarded Otterness a $750,000 contract to place 59 bronze sculptures in the Moscone station of the proposed Central Subway.
Otterness is a world-renowned sculptor famous for his often-whimsical, cartoonlike sculptures of people and animals. But his past haunts him.
In 1977, at the age of 25, he purchased a shelter dog, tied it to a fence and shot it on film, calling it art. He has repeatedly apologized for the act, most recently on Friday when he called it “indefensible.”
“I have spent the 34 years since then living with my mistake, and trying to bring joy into the world through my public art,” he said.
The Arts Commission was unaware of the dog shooting until a Friday article in The San Francisco Examiner, according to Patterson.
Mayor Ed Lee reacted by calling for a freeze on The City’s contracts with Otterness.
“At the direction of the mayor and [commission president PJ Johnston], we have halted all work on Mr. Otterness’ projects pending further review,” Patterson said. Contract changes are up to the commission.
“We’re going to take a look at all our options,” Johnston said. The commission usually judges “the nature of the art,” but in this case it’s “taking a look at the nature of the artist and that raises complex questions,” he said.
The Arts Commission and Otterness have a relationship dating back to 2004, when he was first selected by The City to do an art piece for the entry gates of the Pulgas Water Temple that celebrates the flow of Hetch Hetchy water. But it was canceled “due to financial concerns about the cost of fabrication,” Patterson said.
Tom Otterness has had three art commissions with The City.
|Value||Art commission detail||Year approved||Status|
|$250,000||entry gates artwork for Pulgas Water Temple||2004
||Canceled due to cost|
|$700,000||Mother with Children sculpture at SF General Hospital||2010||on hold/paid artist $365,750|
|$750,000||59 bonze statues for Central Subway/Moscone Station||2011||on hold|
Source: Arts Commission