Tom Otterness (American, b.1952) is a sculptor who created art for public locations, such as parks, libraries, courthouses, and museums. Although he was born and raised in Wichita, KS, Otterness began his career in art by studying at the Art Students League of New York in 1970. He also studied through the Independent Study Program associated with the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1973.

When the group of artists known as Collaborative Projects (Colab) was established in 1977, Otterness was a member. Otterness started to make an income from his work by selling plaster figures at Artists Space during the Christmas holiday in New York City in 1979. Following along these lines, he then went on to make small monuments and sell them at a Colab event in 1980, which was held in Time Square. Otterness created The Tables, and in 1987 they were displayed at the Museum of Modern Art's Projects.

The largest exhibit that Otterness participated in was Tom Otterness on Broadway in 2005. It featured 25 pieces set up between Columbus Circle and 168th Street in Washington Heights. Among the sponsors of the show were the Broadway Mall Association, City of New York Parks and Recreation Department, and Marlborough Gallery. The exhibition traveled to Beverly Hills, Grand Rapids, and Indianapolis. Among Otterness’s most notable works is the Life Underground, created in 2002 in New York City. The project included more than 100 sculptures made of cast bronze, which were placed throughout the New York City Subway system.

Some of Otterness’s works were controversial, such as the film he created in 1977 titled Shot Dog Film, in which he shot a dog that he had adopted specifically for the purpose of the film. In April of 2008, Otterness issued a public apology for this act, which was ultimately published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This same controversial film cost Otterness a US$750,000 contract with the City of San Francisco for artwork intended to be placed in the Central Subway project. The artist currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Timeline

1952
Born in Wichita, Kansas
1970
Arts Students League, New York
1973
Independent Study Program, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1977
Founding member of Collaborative Projects, Inc., New York
2003
“Art Achievement Award,” 2003 Biennial Exhibition of Public Art. Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York
2005
Honored by New York City’s Municipal Art Society for Tom Otterness on Broadway
The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Exhibitions

2007
Wit & Whimsy, Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY, March 6 - 31
2007
Summer Exhibition, Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY, June 6 – August
2007
Sobre el Humor, Galería Marlborough, Madrid, Spain, June 28 – September 8
2007
Tom Otterness: The Public Unconscious, Marlborough Chelsea, New York, October 4 – November 3. (solo)
2006
Tom Otterness in Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, California (solo)
2006
Tom Otterness, Marlborough Monaco, Monaco, March 24 – May 12 (solo)
2006
Tom Otterness in Grand Rapids: The Gardens to the Grand, Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 1 – September 10, 2006. (solo)
2006
Summer Group Show, Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York, June 22 – September 5
2005
Salamanca ciudad de la escultura, Salamanca, Spain, May 13 - August 28
2005
Works on Paper, Marlborough Gallery, New York
2005
Tom Otterness on Broadway, New York, New York (solo)
2005
Tom Otterness in Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana (solo)
2004
Get Off! Exploring the Pleasure Principle, The Museum of Sex, New York, New York
2004
Several Strange Objects, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo)
Tom Otterness on Broadway, from Columbus Circle to 168th Street in New York City, NY; organized by Marlborough Gallery, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Broadway Mall Association
2003
BOMBEATER, Skoto Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2002
Free Money and Other Fairy Tales, Marlborough Gallery Chelsea, New York, NY (solo)
See No Evil, Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2001
Sculpture, Drawing and Works on Relief, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Lighten Up: Art with a Sense of Humor, De Cordova Museum Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA
2000
Drawings and Photographs, Matthew Marks Gallery, organized by the foundation for Contemporary Performance Art, New York, NY
Imaginary Beings, Exit Art, New York
DNCart, A project for the Democratic National Committee, New York
Monte-Carlo International Sculpture festival: Contemporary American Sculpture, Marlborough Gallery, Monte-Carlo, Monaco
1999
Tom Otterness, Galería Marlborough, Madrid, Spain (catalogue)
Tom Otterness: Gold Rush, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1998
Tom Otterness: The Marriage of Real Estate and Money and Other Redent Projects, Palm Beach Community College Museum of Contemporary Art, Lake Worth, FL
Stages of Creation: Public Sculptures by National Academicians, National Academy, NY
Pop Surrealism, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield
An Exhibition for Children, 242, New York
1997
Otterness’ World, Marlborough Gallery, New York (catalogue)
Life Underground, Battery Park City, New York (temporary installation through Spring 1998)
American Academy Invitational Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
Contemporary Sculpture: The Figurative Tradition, Woodson Art Museum, Wasau, WI
The Private Eye in Public Art, LaSalle Lobby Gallery, NationsBank Plaza, Charlotte, NC
Wit, Whimsy, and Humor, College of New Rochelle Castle Gallery, New Rochelle, NY
Socrates Sculpture Park, 10th Anniversary, New York
Structures: Buildings in American Art 1900-1997, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1996
Tom Otterness: Marriage of Real Estate and Money, Motel Fine Arts, New York, NY
1996-97 The PaineWebber Collection, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA; Center for the Fine Arts, Miami, FL
The Gun, Icon of the Twentieth Century, Ubu Gallery, New York
A Century of American Drawing from the Collection, the Museum of Modern Art, New York
Twentieth Century American Sculpture at the White House, Exhibition IV, Washington, D.C.
1995
Tom Otterness, On the Commons: Recent Sculptures, MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, NY; a project of the Public Art Fund
Tom Otterness: The Tables, Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS
Tom Otterness: Drawings and New Sculpture, Brooke Alexander, New York
Tom Otterness: Recent Sculpture, Doris Freedman Plaza, New York; a project of the Public Art Fund
1994
Otterness: Recent Drawings and Small Objects, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, IL (catalogue)
1993
Galerie Weber, Münster, Westfalen, Germany
Tom Otterness: New Sculpture, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
Tom Otterness: The Tables, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA