“Ancestor,” a new sculpture by Bharti Kher, has been chosen to reside at the Fifth Avenue and 60th Street entrance to Central Park in New York City for the next year. It’s 18 feet tall, has 24 heads (detail below)….
…and is made to look old and weathered, though it was cast in bronze and is fresh out of the oven, or whatever. The Times says,
“Ancestor” is, at its core, an Indian goddess form, the kind found in Hindu popular iconography, with hair that rises in a bun yet somehow also hangs in a braid. But protruding in clumps pell-mell from her upper body are 23 extra heads, each with its own expression, peering this way and that.
You can read about what the artist thinks this mess means here. I don’t even have a coherent quiz question to pose, just a group of puzzled queries that follow my immediate, “What the hell?”
One definition of public art I found quickly, which is essentially what I assumed and as good as any, is: “Public art adds enormous value to the cultural, aesthetic and economic vitality of a community. It is now a well-accepted principle of urban design that public art contributes to a community’s identity, fosters community pride and a sense of belonging, and enhances the quality of life for its residents and visitors.”
- How does “Ancestor” fulfill that mission for Central Park?
- What community, New Delhi?
- Presumably a Christian icon in the same location within Doris C. Freedman Plaza would not be considered “inclusive.” How is a Hindu goddess appropriate?
- This exhibition cost money. Is it a responsible use of public funds? Any public funds?
- If that thing qualifies as public art, what doesn’t qualify as public art?
- What the hell?