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Tom Otterness

American  •  b. 1952


American artist Tom Otterness generated considerable controversy in 1977 for his conceptual work Shot Dog Film, notorious for its unblinking violence and unashamed cruelty. The piece established Otterness as a risk-taking artist, not afraid to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable.


Yet the controversial work would eventually haunt him for years, particularly as shows of violence became scarce in an increasingly modern society. Veering off in a diametrically opposite direction, Otterness started working with lost wax and bronze to create public art installations. Often inhabiting parks, center squares and transportation infrastructures, Otterness' sculptures tend towards the comedic. They are cartoonish and cheeky, nodding at art history, pop culture, capitalism, greed and satire. To date, Otterness is one of the most successful public artists world-wide.



  • Otterness is perhaps most well-known as the artist behind Life Underground, 2001, a permanent public installation of bite-size, cartoonish statuettes in bronze, including alligators and characters with money bags, that populate New York's 14th Street/Eighth Avenue subway station. The project was commissioned by the MTA's Arts for Transit program for $200,000.

  • In the late 1970s, Otterness played an essential role in the formation of CoLab (Collaborative Projects), an interdisciplinary group of artists advocating for the politicization of artist practice and civic engagement.

  • He is represented by Marlborough Gallery in New York.

"I try to talk about the things nobody talks about, and do it in the sculpture."

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