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Tom Otterness’s Playful Sculptures Bring Serious Prices

Tom Otterness’s whimsical sculptures have been commissioned and exhibited in parks, playgrounds, hospitals, subway stations, libraries and city plazas.

NEW YORK—Tom Otterness’s whimsical sculptures have been commissioned and exhibited in parks, playgrounds, hospitals, subway stations, libraries and city plazas. His outdoor bronze works are sometimes monumental and sometimes small but always playful, often representing smiling animals: frogs, bears, snails, rodents, cats and dogs; and objects such as houses, for instance, with human features. Commissions are handled out of Otterness’s Brooklyn-based studio.

The Marlborough Gallery, in charge of the artist’s private sales, has represented him exclusively since the mid-1990s, and is currently exhibiting 30 small to medium-sized bronzes of human-looking bears, fish, horses and spiders in a show entitled “Animal Spirits,” at its 57th street branch in Manhattan (through March 26).

The sculptures generally are cast in editions of six—sometimes as few as three—and are priced between $10,000/350,000, depending upon size, according to Marlborough Gallery president Pierre Levai. He noted that some sculpture editions are more popular than others and that the artist’s animals are “extremely popular” primarily with American collectors. The gallery sold ten works alone on the first day of the exhibition (Feb. 23). Levai told ARTnewsletter: “Every [Otterness] show we’ve had has been successful. We’ve sold at least a few pieces from every edition.”

In addition to the sculptures, pencil drawings by the artist are also on view and for sale, priced between $12,000 and $24,000.

Otterness’s work has appeared at auction several times, with the highest price of $114,000 (estimate: $50,000/70,000) reached at Sotheby’s in 2005 for the 12-inch-tall bronze Alligator, 1995. Other top prices include $72,000 (estimate: $60,000/80,000) for Visionary, 1993, a six-foot-tall sculpture, at Sotheby’s in 2007 and $65,725 (estimate: $50,000/70,000) at Sotheby’s in 2002 for the 58-inch-tall bronze, The Fountain, 1984.

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