Tom Otterness
Sculptor
02:20

Tom Otterness on the International Art World

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Tom Otterness notices an autocratic streak in Europe’s art scene.

Tom Otterness

Tom Otterness is an American sculptor whose permanent installation, "Life Underground," is located in the 14th St/8th Avenue subway station in New York City. His work, usually cartoonish and cheerful but with a dark side, can be found in parks and public squares throughout the world. Otterness works out of a 20,000 square-foot studio in Brooklyn, New York.
Transcript

Question: Is making art different in Europe?

Tom Otterness: It is distinctly different and it’s one of the dilemmas of making work here in the United States is that it’s a democratic process here or… And in Europe, it’s much more autocratic. It’s clearly decided by a people that… maybe museum directors or people that have a very frontline knowledge of what modern art is and they make decisions, and the public be damn. It’s, you know, they’ll live with it. The public will live with it and it’s a kind of a European take. And it results in some of the best work being made there and it’s sort of this dilemma here that we have this democracy that ethically is… should be stronger but makes, we’re very deluded public art possibilities here. It really limits the possibilities in sort of frontline work. The fact that Richard Serra cannot work in this country and can’t get a public commission in the United States is, I think, one of the shame, you know, it’s something that we should… It’s a national shame, you know. It will be seen historically that way, you know, one of the greatest sculptors of the period and unable to work in our country. What is that mean? I mean, in the reversal is to say, “Who could work in Germany in the 30s?” It’s that kind of intolerance, but it’s strange because it has, it’s a result of this democracy, I think. So, it’s one of those dilemmas I haven’t resolved. I don’t know what the answer is to it.


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