Worst Public Art nominations so far

Below are the nominees so far for our Worst Public Art in New England project (as of November we are no longer accepting nominations):

= Robert Shure’s 1998 Boston Irish Famine Memorial (pictured above). Additional nominations: two, three, four, five, six (see comments), and seven (see comments).
= Buster Simpson’s granite seats at Downtown Crossing T stop form 1987.
= Bronze of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens from the 1960s TV show “Bewitched” in Salem, Massachusetts, 2005, which was commissioned by TV Land cable network from StudioEIS in Brooklyn.
= Mosaic sculptures in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.
= Charles Y. Harvey’s 1912 “Burnside Fountain” in Worcester.
= Stanley Saitowitz’s 1995 New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston.
= Bruce Papitto’s 2000 bronze sculpture “The Patriot” in Bedford, Massachusetts.
= Be Sargent’s 1999 “A Wall of Respect for Animals” mural along McGrath Highway in Cambridge.
= Anything made by children.
= Shelter at the North Main Street trolley tunnel in Providence.
= Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles’s 1969 Boston City Hall.
= James Tyler’s 1980 “Ten Figures,” cast cement, masked figures in Davis Square, Somerville. More here (see comments).
= Harold Connolly Memorial in Brighton, outside old Taft School, Boston.
= Toshihiro Katayama’s installation of boulders, black and white graphic panels, and so on at Porter Square, Cambridge.
= Laura Baring-Gould’s Clapp pear in Everett Square (Mass Ave and Columbia Road) in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.
= Shauna Gillies-Smith’s “Tracing the Fore” in Boothbay Square in Portland.
= Jaime Gili’s oil storage tanks in South Portland for the Maine Center of Creativity.
= Flight of birds for Martin Luther King Jr. at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel.
= Bela Pratt’s “Art” and “Science” allegorical figures in front of the Boston Public Library.
= Cyrus Dallin’s “Appeal to the Great Spirit” in front of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
= Deborah Butterfield’s “Paint and Henry” horses outside Copley Mall entrance on Dartmouth Street in Boston.
= Andrzej P. Pitynski’s 1979 “Partisans” (aka “Polish Riders”) formerly on Boston Common.
= Donna Vayo’s Green Street Bridge mural in Worcester, Massachusetts.
= Robert Ellison’s 1998 “Time Wave” clock on Washington Street, Providence. A bit more.
= Maurice Harron’s Irish Famine Memorial (see bottom) on Cambridge Common.
= Mark di Suvero’s 1984 “Huru” at UMass Boston.
= Ralph Helmick’s praying hands (see comments) at Park Street T Station, Boston.
= Wayland’s Whale mural (see comments) off Route 93 in Boston’s South End.
= Luis Jimenez, “Legartos” (see comments) alligators at UMass Boston.
= Antonio Lopez Garcia’s 2008 “Day and Night” (see comments) baby heads outside Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
= Mayor Patrick Collins Memorial (see comments) at Boston City Hall. More here.
= Checkerboard (see comments) in front of the gates of Boston’s Chinatown.
= Susumu Shingu’s 1983 “Gift of the Wind” (see comments) in Porter Square, Cambridge.
= Krzysztof Wodiczko’s 2010 LED light installation at the Cambridge Police Headquarters.
= Bronze nude in front of Prudential Center, Boston.
= Mags Harries’s 1984 “Glove Cycle” (see comments) at the Porter Square T station in Cambridge.
= Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial (see comments) from 2004 at Massachusetts State House. More here.
= Mico Kaufman’s 2006 “The Spirit of Marathon” statue (see comments) in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. More here
Fisherman statue (see comments) in Eastport, Maine. More here.
= “That ugly pile of junk next to the Kenedy Builing in government square” in Boston.
= Michael J. Saari’s giant pair of eyeglasses (see comments) in Southbridge, Massachusetts. More here.
= “Two polished steel ‘laptop computers’ (see comments) on the Boston Waterfront, located between the Aquarium and International place.”
= Sculpture at the entrance to BU (see comments) from Storrow drive (eastbound).
= “Every fiberglass decorated cow, moose, bear, codfish or what-have you” (see comments).
= “Sea Flower” (see comments) on the steps of the Federal Building in downtown New Bedford, Massachusetts.
The 2002 Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge (see comments) in Boston. More here.
= Louise Nevelson’s 1975 “Transparent Horizons” at MIT in Cambridge. More here.
= Beverly Pepper’s 1971 “Sudden Presence” at New Chardon and Congress streets in Boston. More here.

Disqualified nomination:
= Richard Serra’s 1981 “Tilted Arc” in New York.

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

27 Responses to “Worst Public Art nominations so far”

  1. Donna Dodson says:

    The artist Wyland created the whaling wall as one of a hundred, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Whaling_Walls.

    Pablo Eduardo created the Harold Connolly memorial to honor Brighton and BC’s only olympic athlete- his left arm was actually born 4″ shorter than his right arm and Harold often had to fend off bullies who teased him [about his arm] yet despite those odds, he went on to train and become an olympic athlete who held the world record for 9 consecutive years in hammer throwing.

    Free at Last, the soaring sculpture by Sergio Castillo was unveiled in memory of one of BU’s greatest’s alumni, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (GRS ’55, Hon. ’59) nearly a decade before federal legislation created Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The fifty doves flying in formation represent peace in all fifty states.

    It was at the Johnson Atelier that Andrew Pitynski’s sculpture “The Partisans” was enlarged to monumental size (9 by 6 meters) because of its sculptural qualities, at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars as stated Seward Johnson Jr. in “Smithsonian” magazine. This aluminum sculpture was unveiled in a historic place in Boston, the Boston Common, on November 10, 1983, a day that the city’s mayor proclaimed “Partisans’ Day.” This sculpture memorializes Polish freedom fighters who battled the Nazis during World War II. It now has a permanent home on the World Trade Center site on the Silver Line in South Boston Waterfront.

  2. Donna Dodson says:

    One more citation… The leaping, near-naked man in the center of the Prudential Plaza is Donna De Lure’s 5-ton bronze statue, Quest Eternal. This depiction of “humanity’s noble pursuit of knowledge.

  3. Thomas Garvey says:

    Wow, what a strange list! Definitely proof that ugliness, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. Much of this is definitely chaff, like the fascistic “seats” on the Orange Line and the Irish-famine Hummel figures; these are offensive because they obnoxiously refute their true function (the seats) or actually insult their subjects (the Irish famine). Meanwhile others that are less irritating are still flat-out ugly (the Copley Square horses), innocently dumb (the whale mural), or just fail utterly in their intent (the big pear). A few are intriguing from a critical viewpoint, however; pieces like the wind sculpture and the Asian rock garden foisted on Porter Square, for instance, are actually archeological evidence of critical stances that haven’t lasted, and now look ridiculous. Others in a similar category are middlebrow, but in a way I’ve developed an affection for (the dude with fire at the Prudential Center, which I think of as a cheesy riposte to Rockefeller Center’s Atlas). And I found strangely poignant the inclusion of Cyrus Dallin’s “Appeal to the Great Spirit” at the MFA, a curiosity that I find hauntingly ambiguous in its politics, but seriously touching in its grief.

  4. Wow. What a strange impetus it must be! To feel compelled to characterize art for others. Definitely proof that ugliness – when used as currency – has the power to mobilize opinion such that it can serve as an obstacle to experience. Much of the above commentary is definitely chaff, offensive because the words obnoxiously refute their true function and actually insult their subjects.

    I love the thought that a true maker bears witness to our world. That the Artist uses different mediums in an attempt to honestly ‘name’. If this naming serves as a punctuation, or better yet, a catalyst for even one remembrance, it seems a generous contribution.

    I’ve sat with the Copley Square Horses and shared conversation with utter strangers next to The Pear. I appreciate work that provides an opening for questions rather than verbosity intended to appear as some sort of authoritative critical viewpoint.

  5. [...] Cook knows oh so well how public art has long been a contentious issue in Boston. Some people love it, some hate it — others think it should be better. Now he’s asking us — the public — to nominate the “Worst Public Art in New England.” [...]

  6. Betty says:

    How much worse can it get than “Bewitched” in Salem MA. It has nothing to do with the city, it is insulting to Wiccans,and it is ugly. Absolutley ludicrous.
    Hand down THE WORST.

  7. Scott says:

    The scattered and bronzed gloves found all around Porter Square subway platform are one of the worst public art displays.

  8. Beatrice Nessen says:

    I nominate the Law Enforcement Memorial at the
    Ashburton Place entrance to the State House

  9. Kathryn says:

    So what’s this? A list of ALL local public art? Or just any that is noticeable? You should at least have accompanying photos for each piece.
    Those benches in Downtown Crossing are terribly useless and uncomfortable though.

  10. Andrew says:

    Public art is difficult. Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial in Washington was deeply controversial when it debuted but it has become the most profound monument we have, dignifying all who served and eliciting sympathy from the rest of us. Unfortunately, the Irish Famine memorial, the worst piece of public sculpture in Boston, risks trivializing the famine through its cheesy realism and maudlin appeal to sentiment. Politicians and donors should never be left alone to make aesthetic decisions.

  11. Linda Hiort says:

    I nominate the marathon statue on Rt. 135 in Hopkinton at the Weston Nurseries as one of the worst in New England. The artist is Michael Alfano. I believe there is also a giant foot somewhere along 135. I’ve seen it, but don’t remember where it’s placed. Update: I apologize. I thought Alfano had done the one with the two runners [near Weston Nurseries]. I also dislike the one of George Brown [by Alfano], but even worse is a giant foot that was brought out on Marathon day (I recently moved from Hopkinton). It is extremely tacky. I don’t know whether it’s still outside some place along the route or not.

  12. Jonathan says:

    The fisherman statue in Eastport, Maine. Godawful.


  13. Paul Husted says:

    I nominate that ugly pile of junk next to the Kenedy Builing in government square, Boston.

  14. Jana Chicoine says:

    C’mon, you’ve got to publish this list as a slide show! This will really popularize it and bring a lot more web traffic and media interest. Write me when you do, I’d love to see it!

  15. Rick Aronson says:

    Is it a radar tower or a poorly engineered windmill? The Gift of the Wind “sculpture” in Porter Square looks like a trio of ugly red kites conspicuously turning atop a gargantuan steel poll. The very definition of “eyesore.”

  16. Jen L. says:

    I was going to nominate the bronze of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens from the 1960s TV show “Bewitched” in Salem, Massachusetts, but I see it has already been nominated. The history of the Salem witch trials are already a mockery, without adding arbitrary television characters to the mix. This is aesthetic research though, so the witch though philospically horrendous, mightn’t qualify. The statue itself is fine. Boring, but accurate.

  17. Eric M. Jones says:

    Southbridge now has a large pair of eyeglasses on the commons near the police station to commemorate American Optical that packed up in 1974 and left 5,000 people unemployed.

    It is soooo not-fitting with the character of the community that it is hard to believe. Atrocious.

  18. [...] Cook has created a project that asks for your nominations for the  “Worst Public Art in New England.” Cook has a ”negative” thing about the  Boston Irish Famine Memorial in Downtown [...]

  19. Anne-Marie says:

    I nominate the two polished steel ‘laptop computers’ on the Boston Waterfront, located between the Aquarium and International place–closest to a condominium building and its private swimming pool).
    These items (I can’t call it art) are not only blocking the view of the waterfront, but they fill what would be a great public seating or gathering place–and in the summer they heat it up immensely. Perhaps these effects are intentional, so as to make more privacy for that pool area? Besides, they really are nothing worth looking at, unlike most of the nominations previously made.

  20. Jim Forrest says:

    That new bridge on I-93 as you enter Boston, the one with all the wires that was part of the Big Dig, is the ugliest bridge I’ve ever seen and the biggest waste of public money. Some people must think it’s art because every time someone on national television is reporting from Boston, they always have it in the background. Based on all the other shoddy work done during the Big Dig, that bridge will probably fall down within 20 years.

  21. Michael M. says:

    How about the sculpture at the entrance to BU from Storrow drive (Eastbound)? I don’t know if it’s supposed to look like that or if it fell down.

  22. How about every fiberglass decorated cow, moose, bear, codfish or what-have you. They are a mind numbing insult to the nobility of each of those species.
    I think a class action eye offending lawsuit list ought to be compiled of such imbecilic drivel. That junk is proliferated all over smaller New England cities, and there is absolutely NO excuse for any of it.

  23. Bartleby says:

    Ah, but what of the majestic “Sea Flower” that has been slowly decomposing on the steps of the Federal Building in downtown New Bedford for the last 30 years? I think it may be alternately titled “Hot Dog Supernova.”


  24. [...] poorly executed, the most-cheesy memorial to human tragedy in Boston.” So far, most of the nominations are from around greater Boston–but surely there’s bad public art elsewhere in the New [...]

  25. [...] “A Wall of Respect for Animals” this mural by Be Sargent was nominated as one of the “Worst Public Art” projects in New England. The nice thing about walking by the building is that I finally was [...]