We’re very sorry to be missing the always wonderful Sculpture by the Sea event in Sydney this year, but the Dutch have sculpture by the North Sea too.
Googling the American sculptor Tom Otterness, after seeing his work by the beach in Scheveningen, I read that he once filmed himself shooting a dog, for an art film. It cost him some lucrative commissions. He apologised. Not good enough, say some of his critics. He killed the dog in 1977, when he was 25. Is all forgiven? Is it okay to enjoy his work now?
Mr Otterness has also attracted controversy for his sculptures in New York’s subways, where his quirky little bronze characters are rather heavy-handed parodies of the uncaring rich and privileged. Having been handsomely rewarded for his work, the artist is probably rich and privileged himself. Should this disqualify him from commenting on social inequality?
Plenty of artists whose work we admire have lived less than admirable personal lives; Caravaggio, Genet, Polanski… Charles Dickens made a very comfortable living from expressing his empathy with the poor and downtrodden and, though a noted philanthropist, abandoned his own family.
The Otterness work at Scheveningen seems uncontroversial to us. His cartoonish figures suggest fairytales, some of which we recognise, some we don’t. They may not be great art, but they certainly charm, intrigue and brighten up the waterfront outside the excellent Museum Beelden aan Zee.
What do you think?