One of the great things about New York is that you've got a good chance of running into an installation of what they call "public art" almost anywhere. This one sticks up out of the East River, a few yards off the Manhattan side of Roosevent Island. It's called "The Marriage of Money and Real Estate."
I put the "public art" in quotes because I don't think there's much about art that's really public, whether the art is cloistered behind a ticket kiosk in a gallery or sitting out where anybody can inspect it for free. Why people make art, buy it, open public spaces to it, and admire it is an everlasting mystery to me, even though I'm an admirer and occasional buyer, and don't object at all to the use of my tax money on it.
Here's another example, currently on display at the southeast corner of Central Park at 5th Ave. and 60th Street.
The mature Otterness is known for his cute, whimsical figures, but he's definitely a guy with a hard, sharp edge. Look here, the "marriage of money and real estate" ends badly. Money is now a murderous lobster dragging poor little real estate under, and in the third figure, which I didn't get but you can see at http://www.tomostudio.com/exhibitions_roosevelt.html,
things get even crazier.
What's this alarming three-panel strip about? Otterness wasn't just "exploring the relationship between real estate and money," as the Roosevelt Island tourist brochures palm it off. He certainly knew that anyone looking at these pieces would see them against the backdrop of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where money and real estate have been having a steamy honeymoon for more than a century.
Is this an editorial? A critique? An insult? A prophesy? Did Otterness actually see the mortgage crisis coming in 1996? Or does he think there's something fundamentally evil and deadly about New Yorkers' lust for location?
If so, who asked him?