Botero-Bodied Sculptures On New York Avenue

by MADELEINE STARKEY · July 13, 2010

If you are a sorry soul whose only avenue (figuratively and literally) in and out of downtown is New York Avenue, you've likely been privy to a quarter of bodacious, Botero-esque statues as of late.  Who are these new folks?

New York Avenue ushers people in and out of downtown DC morning, noon, and night.  It can be a fairly aesthetically pleasing trip, too, if you're not stuck in ridiculous traffic.

The view's gotten even better.  Four sculptures, installed in late April of this year, marked the beginning of a new art initiative spearheaded by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  The initiative is called the New York Avenue Sculpture Project and focuses on (surprise) women artists.  The installation sits on NY Ave NW between 12th and 13th Streets.

These particular sculptures were created by the late French-born artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

The Sculpture Project is not just about beautifying the no-man's-land that can be that part of town.  The National Museum of Women in the Arts says, rather:

As any visitor to our nation’s capital knows, there is a great deal of traditional public sculpture in Washington, D.C. However, in the area around the museum, no such cultural monuments exist. In addition, of all the sculpture in the nation’s capital, little of it is modern or contemporary and precious few works are by women. Working to redress this imbalance, the program also represents a long-term commitment to the artistic beautification of New York Avenue. With temporary sculpture installations that will change every 1 to 3 years, this project will create a visually exciting landmark and a recognizable destination point in the capital city.

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It's unclear when de Saint Phalle's sculptures will be removed and replaced with the next installment of the...installation, although the official NMWA says new iterations will appear every one to three years.  So it seems it will be some time until we see what's next.  But for now, we can simply revel in the much-needed modern sculptures that stand relatively alone in a city rife with so many historical monuments.

These colorful, buxom figures are a welcome respite, as well, since the disappearance of the panda bear installations, known as Pandamania, that took over D.C. more than five years ago.  Pandamania featured some 150 odd Panda sculptures that were designed in various ways, in homage to the National Zoo's rare panda population.

Even before "Pandamania" there was "Party Animals," an installation comprised of decorated donkeys and elephants, the traditional party animals for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively.

The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities was responsible for both Pandamania and Party Animals.  I guess the NMWA decided they were not going to wait around any longer for the DCARTS to start up another installation series.  It's a good thing they didn't; D.C. bureaucracy takes forever to get anything done.

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