getting smug over the “fallen dancer”

bad public art…..

By Art Chantry (

Every city has it’s examples of really bad urban sculpture. these things are usually funded by self-righteous fine art mavens foisting their idea of “good taste and breeding” down the throats of the huddled masses. It’s always for their own good, ya know? “besides, it keeps cousin Bruce out of my hair if we swing him an art grant now and then to keep him busy, right? it’s good for the city’s culture!”

AC:that awful jimi statue on broadway started life when a local radio station (kzok) tried to get a monument to jimi set up in seattle back in the 80's. the city (of course) said NO! a big battle ensued and the radio guys lost the case. the city (instead) set up a "heated boulder covered small purple flowers in the woodland park zoo savannah exhibit" (because jimi was a hot rock star and his biggest hit was 'purple haze' and he was 'from africa'. get it? groan.) that rock is still there with a little plaque on it (whether it's heated or not is a mystery). in response the guy who owned 'yesco' (a 'muzak' wannabe who was eventually sold to muzak) decided to take matters into his own hands and commissioned the bad jimi statue and placed it in front of his building. the company is gone and the statue os still there. (and so is the EMP, which began life as the jimi hendrix museum. but that's another sordid story.)

Seattle is a city with a really big problem with smugness. It reeks of the “smug”. so, naturally, their publicly funded “fine” art on public display would naturally be a little more lame than your average city. somehow , when a city proudly paints a mural on the side of a warehouse building of a lifelike photo-realist ‘orca’ breaching out of the water and call it a ‘masterpiece’, well, you KNOW you’re in for trouble. Seattle’s public art does not disappoint – that is if you love a good laugh.

Seattle has traditionally commissioned such BAD public art, that among old timers it’s become a sort of accepted irony – how can a city with so much money be so completely ignorant of all taste whatsoever? everybody knows money = good taste, right? and besides, it gives all the ‘real’ artists something to whine about and feel miserable about (in order to create their superior art). so, it all works out fine and Seattle had really shitty public art. even their much touted art museum ‘sculpture garden’ (built on a toxic waste sight) is full of second and third (even fourth) rate pieces by hyper-famous ‘name’ artists scattered about in a witless clutterfucked fashion. True to form, money and good taste trumps intelligence every time.

This image is one of my all time favorites examples of ‘really bad Seattle public art’. What is so nice about it that it is bad from so many perspectives – it’s just thoroughly and utterly bad no matter how you look at it. in other words, this is PERFECT bad sculpture. The kind that only a terminally smug place like Seattle can produce.

This anatomically impossible thing was a bronze stature (very awkwardly slightly smaller than life size) that was installed in front of the entrance to the Seattle opera house at the Seattle center (the sight of the old 1962 Seattle Worlds fair. yes, Seattle moved their opera house to a fairgrounds). what you see here is years after it’s installation, when the off-balance of the weight of the bronze casting (which was apparently mishandled) slowly bent the ankle the ‘dancer’ is carefully balanced upon and slowly bent it over with it’s sheer weight. basically, this bad art was even more badly produced, cast and created.

This image is clipped form a newspaper ‘lifestyle’ section having a good laugh at the little joke some prankster decided to undertake. some clown decided to put ‘panties’ on the naked dancer. funny stuff, right? even Seattle’s “public humor” is lame. The insult of the perfectly snarky comment would be hilarious, except that in a city like Seattle, you just never know if something like this isn’t completely serious and may actually be the action of a radical bluenosed citizen taking a stand against nudity. Seattle is full of crackpots.

Eventually, during a corporate remodel, the city removed this thing “for repairs”. like most Seattle bad public sculpture, it eventually vanishes from sight “for repairs” never to be seen again. I imagine out there somewhere in the industrial section of Seattle, there is a warehouse full of bad public art moldering away. I’d love to tour it sometime. try to imagine what that could be like!

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Seattle even painted over it’s very first “1% for the arts” project. It was a wall mural of some cheezy ribbons painted on the side of a warehouse next to the waterfront viaduct (there is that atrocious painting of the ‘breaching orca’ in that spot now). It was simply painted over when the “new” owners painted that building. nobody noticed or cared at all.

Once, while rebuilding a plaza downtown, the workers uncovered a mosaic/mural underneath the plaza tiles. apparently, it was another “1% for the arts” project that was covered up during a ‘remodel’ and forgotten about for ever – until some construction workers unearthed it like in an archeological dig. the city decided to place a protective layer over it and re-bury it under the new plaza pavement. Maybe some future generation will find this lost masterpiece and remove it for display in the ‘museum of bad lost art (MLBA)”. but, don’t hold your breath.

This ‘falling dancer’ statue became such a target of ridicule that little jokes like this constantly plagued it. some were funny, some were not. my personal favorite was the traditional (and often repeated) joke of simply placing a banana peel below the dancer. you can figure it our from there…

James Crespinel. Read More:

the old Tacoma cemetery was supposedly designed by Gustave Eiffel (the name eiffel who did the eiffel tower in paris). there is also supposed to be a tiffany dome in a cemetery columbarium (mosoleum for ‘creamains’) in tacoma, too. i’ve looked at it, though and it really doesn’t look like tiffany’s work. there’s all sorts of mysteries in tacoma. did you know there is a private home in Lakewood that is one of the rare frank lloyd wright homes in the northwest? nobody pays any attention to Tacoma. we prefer it that way. stay away….

---DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES The city of Enumclaw bought the sculpture to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its arts commission. Enumclaw Mayor John Wise has canceled the official unveiling of a public art sculpture while city officials investigate whether the piece is a fake. City officials bought the sculpture online two years ago for $5,700 without knowing who the artist was. Amid questions about the authenticity of the sculpture, the city says it is researching the origin of the piece, "Boys in the Band," a sculpture of child musicians that was bought to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Enumclaw Arts Commission. Earlier this week, Cultural Programs Manager Gary LaTurner said the city planned to unveil the sculpture, fake or not, at this weekend's art walk. The piece is signed by Jim Davidson, a name linked to accusations of art fraud. If the city determines the sculpture is counterfeit, officials say, it will be removed from City Hall grounds and destroyed. Counterfeiting, a big problem in the bronze-sculpting community, hurts artists' reputations and devalues their work. "We just don't know what the history of it was, so we're going to find out," City Administrator Mark Bauer said. Saturday's unveiling was scheduled as the kick-off event for the city's Art Walk through downtown. In response to questions, LaTurner said he didn't research the artist's name before or after the city bought the piece. The city found the piece online at and paid $5,700 for it. The sculpture, which had to be assembled, arrived broken. The company refused to take it back, but gave the city a $1,000 refund and suggested gluing the broken piece on....---Read More:

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