This week an odd statue was installed in Campus Martius, the center of downtown Detroit. The statue is of two figures — one large and one small — with Mickey Mouse bodies and cartoon-ish skull-and-crossbones heads.
The 17-foot statue titled “Waiting” was designed by artist Kaws and purchased by Dan Gilbert. The irony here is Kaws got his start as a street and graffiti artist, and Gilbert has been vehemently against unsanctioned graffiti and street art downtown.
If you’ve been in downtown Detroit this week, or seen it on social media, you may be wondering what exactly the statue in front of the Compuware building on Campus Martius is supposed to be.
And here’s a bigger question – is this art, is it a nuisance, and, who gets to decide what it is, or is not?
Sabrina Nelson, a Detroit-based professional artist and staff-member at the College for Creative Studies, speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about people’s mixed reaction of the downtown statue.
She says there would have been a benefit to selecting a Detroit-based artist for this kind of display, instead of someone who doesn’t live here like Kaws.
“There’s so many artists here that do pieces that people have the opportunity to ask, ‘What did you mean by that?'” says Nelson. But she says she appreciates that you can touch the statue, saying the interactive nature of it “makes it feel like it belongs to us.”
“Downtown is not the only place that exists in the city, and there’s a lot of places with public sculpture all over the city of Detroit,” she says.
Hooper says Kaws represents the “height of success for a contemporary artist.”
“The other part of the conversation is why did Dan Gilbert put this here, why is he allowed to do that, do we need to have a public conversation about that?,” he says. “But that (conversation) has been going on for a long time.”
Click on the audio player above for the full conversation.