More than three years ago, as part of a series on local public art called “Monumental Seattle,” I wrote about “The Miser,” sitting just outside the entrance to the Grand Hyatt Seattle at 721 Pine Street. The bronze sculpture, fashioned in 1997 by Tom Otterness, whimsically depicted class struggle. A cartoonish tycoon hands a coin to a down-and-outer, with both standing on a globe supported by other tycoons. (For other installments of my public-art series, click here, here and here.)
I thought “The Miser” was brilliant. But not everyone shared my view. Paul Constant, a writer at The Stranger, the well-read local alternative weekly, had been offended by the juxtaposition of such political commentary with the fancy hotels and restaurants along one of downtown Seattle’s fanciest strips. He wrote in 2008, “The aggravating combination of weak satire and poor location makes this the worst statue in Seattle.”
Still, it came as a surprise last week when a visitor to New To Seattle posted this comment under my 2012 story: “Do you know where ‘The Miser’ went?”
I hot-footed it downtown to look. Gone! Missing in action! And, it turns out, recently replaced–quietly–by a more innocuous piece of art.
In its place: “The Sculptor,” another cartoonish creation, this one in stainless steel, by Otterness. It depicts, well, a sculptor, on a limestone block, holding a mallet. The unique 9½ foot-high creation was first displayed in New York City last year in a 20-piece-plus Otterness show called “Creation Myth,” mounted at the Marlborough Gallery.
According to publicity for the show, the conceit was based on Pygmalion, the Greek legend of a sculptor falling in love with the statue created. But with a twist: The sculptor depicted here was a woman, not a man. To me, though, “The Sculptor” looks pretty unisex, although that may be part of the joke.
The circumstances of the change remain obscure. In an email to me, Otterness said the two pieces were “simply switched out” by their owner, who is Richard Hedreen, the developer and part-owner of the Grand Hyatt Seattle as well as a noted art collector. Hedreen apparently bought “The Sculptor” through Marlborough Gallery. Several Hyatt employees I chatted up said “The Sculptor” was installed without any fanfare a few months ago in the spring.
However, I also was told that “The Miser” had been damaged within the past two years by a vehicle passing through the U-shaped driveway entrance of the 425-room Grand Hyatt, and removed. “The Miser” had sat on the narrow island formed by the driveway and the public sidewalk along Pine Street. A Google Maps street view dated May 2014 clearly shows “The Miser” missing, with nothing standing in its place, as “The Sculptor” is now.
At Otterness’s studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., staffers said they were unaware of any damage. A few days ago, I called the executive offices of the Grand Hyatt Seattle to inquire about the circumstances and whereabouts of “The Miser” and was told someone would be back in touch. I’ll update this if I hear anything.
Until I am told something authoritative to the contrary, I’m going to assume “The Miser” is not in a public place anymore. That would be too bad. For me, “The Sculptor” standing alone is a bit meaningless, even with knowledge of the back story. I’ll miss “The Miser.”