The Sunbather is a bronze sculpture nine feet tall and twice as long of a figure in repose. It was recently installed reclining in a shrubbery at the intersection of 43rd and Jackson Avenue in Queens. It’s the result of the Percent for Art Program, an initiative of the Department of Cultural Affairs in New York City that garnishes one percent of all of the budget from eligible city-funded construction projects to install large public art pieces in various neighborhoods.
But whether or not The Sunbather will beautify its neighborhood is up for debate. Despite being a classically cast bronze, it looks nothing like any statue you’ve seen before. In color and texture, the tall, spindly figurine in its twisted post appears to be made of chewed pink bubblegum.
“When this piece goes up, it’s going to make a splash. It’s going to be noticed,” said City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer during a last minute inspection by the Percent for Art committee early in November. The odd appearance of the statue has sparked a bit of a controversy for the PoA team; locals have raised numbers of objections not just to the thing itself, but also to the Department’s process. The statue cost over half a million dollars, but it was chosen by a panel of city officials and businessmen without public input. As have been many other sculptures, but the appearance of this one brought out many more vocal opponents.
“This looks like you dug up Gumby’s grandmother and threw it on the median,” said one opponent.
While the installation of The Sunbather has gone forward despite the backlash, the Department of Cultural Affairs has taken steps to ensure that the public won’t be left out in the future, including a bill to that effect which was signed into action back in June.
The Sunbather was designed by Ohad Meromi, a New York-based artist. It was built in Serrat Metals, and installed on November 11th.