OHNY: Tom Otterness’s Studio

Once again, the organization known as Open House New York has planned a weekend-long celebration of the city’s architectural wonders. Places that are normally off-limits (or at least, very difficult for most people to enter) throw open their doors and allow curious visitors inside.

This is the sixth year of Open House New York Weekend, and each year the number of people and places participating grows. While many sites allow visitors to wander in and out, quite a few require advance reservations. Spaces are few and they fill up quickly, so I considered myself extremely fortunate to nab a spot on the visit to Tom Otterness’s studio.

It would be fair to call Tom Otterness New York’s favorite sculptor. While his name might not be familiar, his work is displayed in public and private spaces around the city. Depending on your point of view, you might consider them whimsical or political, witty or simplistic.

In Manhattan, many of his cartoon-like figures, particularly those in the 14th Street subway station, have been embraced and fondled by so many admirers that their dull finish has become a polished gleam. They also scamper around the Hilton Hotel in Times Square, public schools and parks in Manhattan and a children’s hospital in the Bronx. In Brooklyn, his depiction of an alligator escaping from a sewer is a centerpiece of the MetroTech business complex.

Today, he began greeting visitors to his cavernous Brooklyn studio shortly after 10:00 a.m. The artist showed works in progress, projects still in the planning stages, commissions that were cancelled and completed sculptures. He fielded questions, explained his creative process from initial clay model to finished bronze, sold miniatures and posters of his work, signed autographs and posed for photos with admirers.

Works at different stages

Plaster caked clamps on a studio wall

Sketches and model

Boy inspecting statue

A corner is filled with work by friends, this by John Ahearn

Tom Otterness speaks to OHNY participants

Rendering of a public project

Drawings and model for playground

Castings in progress

Vistor and plaster cast

Model of the balloon he created for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Small figures and pennies are recurring themes

Otterness’s Frog and Bee at NYC’s Public School 234

Otterness’s alligator coming out of a sewer at Brooklyn MetroTech

Open House New York
Tom Otterness


9 Responses to OHNY: Tom Otterness’s Studio

  1. Esther says:

    What a great experience! I never heard of this artist before, but his stuff looks so cute and fun! 🙂


  2. Olivier says:

    Waouhhh tu as de la chance d’avoir rencontrer Tom Otterness dans son atelier. Cela devait être une superbe rencontre. J’adore tous ces personnages que l’on rencontre dans New york.

    Waouhhh you the chance to meet Tom Otterness in his workshop. This should be a great meeting. I love all these characters found in New York.


  3. Cate says:

    Hey, we have one of Tom’s sculptures at Kansas City’s Kemper Museum.


  4. moi says:

    you get to do such fun things/places!!!!!!!


  5. antof9 says:

    “whimsical”, I think. Yes, whimsical.


  6. How cool is that?

    Tom Otterness is soooooo not what I expected him to look like. 🙂 Because of is whimsical art pieces, I was expecting someone who looked more like Mr. Rogers.


  7. I have to confess that I am not a big fan but I got to appreciate it a bit more looking at Olivier’s posts. You can see from his comment here that he is quite passionate about his work. His pieces are fun.
    But what must have been really fantastic is to get to visit his studio like you did! Congrats on the visit!


  8. Tamara says:

    He is NOT NY’s Favorite artist, he is a disgusting DOG KILLER and scum he is an embarrassment to NY.


  9. Dick Prak says:

    Thank you for this weblog entry. I feel it is important that any of us maintain this in mind when you are creating about.


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