Brooklyn Artist Tom Otterness Could Lose $1.4 Million Public Art Commission Over 1977 Dog Shooting

11/16/2011 4:11 PM |

Real dog fooled by Tom Otterness dog sculpture in Battery Park City (Photo copyright 1996 Edward Devereux Sheffe, New York, NY).
  • Real dog fooled by Tom Otterness dog sculpture in Battery Park City (Photo copyright 1996 Edward Devereux Sheffe, New York, NY).

Gowanus-based sculptor Tom Otterness’s 1977 short film “Shot Dog Film,” in which he shot and killed a dog, continues to cause him problems three decades later, even after a very public apology in May and one of New York City’s best-received public art installations. His latest project to be jeopardized by “Shot Dog Film” is one very similar to his installation installation in the 14th Street/Eighth Avenue subway station that was commissioned by San Francisco to the tune of $1.4 million. Now the city is considering pulling the plug on the project.

The San Francisco Examiner reports that Otterness was tapped by San Francisco’s Arts Commission earlier this year to create “59 bronze sculptures in the Moscone station of the proposed Central Subway project.” At the time that the Brooklyn artist was awarded the $750,000 contract, the Arts Commission—which oversees all public art projects in San Francisco—didn’t know about the 1977 film. Otterness was also awarded a $700,000 contract for a large-scale sculpture at San Francisco General Hospital last year. Now both projects are on hold.

The Arts Commission is meeting today to hold a vote to determine whether Otterness’s contracts for the two projects should be rescinded. If the commission votes in favor of canceling the sculpture and subway installation, it will likely have to give up the $365,750 that it has already paid the Brooklyn artist.

While the San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission called for the projects’ cancellation in a letter last month, Arts Commission Chairman PJ Johnston offered the Examiner this assessment of the situation:

Johnston said he remains “torn” on how to vote. He said he is a dog owner and finds the act “abhorrent,” but is concerned with the commission “getting into the position of judging the artist rather than the art.”

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