The New World (sculpture)

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Date: 1993

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity

Medium: Sculpture


Artist: Tom Otterness

Confronting Bodies: Congressman Edward R. Roybal, U.S. District Judge Dickran

Dates of Action: 1993

Location: Los Angeles, California

Description of Artwork: The Sculpture, arranged in a semi-circle, is lined with a trellis decked with male and female figures in various poses and situations. In the center, a bronze baby holds up a globe, and opposite, a female figure crouches in a cave, one leg in chains.

The Incident: U.S. Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-CA) caused parts of a newly installed sculpture to be removed from the courtyard of a federal building in Los Angeles, charging that the work was "obscene." Because the sculpture contained nudity, it was, he contended, "an attractive nuisance. It would attract the homeless that come in, graffiti artists, everything." The work was removed for 12 days. Tom Otterness, the artist who cast The New World, was commissioned by a review panel of the General Services Administration (GSA) to create the work for the plaza of a new federal courthouse building. Roybal found these two elements "obscene... The two figures here I think should be modified or removed." Also challenging the work was U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian, whose offices were moving into the new building and who sent a letter to Representative Roybal protesting the sculpture. Soon after, Regional GSA administrator Edwin Thomas ordered the removal of the two nude figures. Judge Tevrizian subsequently commended the removal of the figures, calling the work a "shrine to pedophiles." He later said, "I don't want to go to work and see a crotch staring me in the face every day." Tevrizian, General Services Administration Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley called it an "arbitrary action" incompatible with constitutional rights of free expression. Similarly, the National Endowment for the Arts, which chose the review panel process, objected. Many arts advocates raised questions about GSA policy and procedure in future public art projects. Thomas and Otterness reached an agreement two weeks later, under which the artist consented to allow anti-vandalism measures, such as a guard rail or special anti-graffiti coating.

Results of Incident: Parts of work removed, then restored.

Source: People for the American Way