Baltimore Fishbowl: As Baltimore decides the fate of the provocative Male/Female Sculpture, its creator weighs in

Penn Station (Flickr)

By Ed Gunts
May 19, 2021

As Baltimore’s Public Art Commission is set to learn more about plans for redevelopment around Pennsylvania Station, the creator of the towering sculpture there is weighing in – urging developers not to touch the most expensive piece of artwork ever donated to the city.

Moving the Male/Female sculpture could cost $150,000 to $250,000, says artist Jonathan Borofsky, and that’s even before anyone knows where to move it.

Attempting a relocation could damage the $750,000 artwork, he adds, which is five stories high, weighs more than 10 tons and could twist out of shape if lifted by a crane.

Borofsky designed the 52-foot-high sculpture as a “permanent” installation in front of Pennsylvania Station when it was commissioned in 2004. He argues that removing a sculpture for aesthetic reasons — as opposed to taking down Confederate statues that are symbols of slavery — would set a troubling precedent for other city-owned works of art.

The developers said in a March 18 presentation that they’ve made no final decisions about whether to retain the sculpture as part of their plans — which call for reconfiguring the roads and adding trees and plants to the paved area in front of the 1911 train station. They said just because the sculpture isn’t on their drawings doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t remain. They said they would study the issue over the next few months and perhaps take a survey.

“Aye yi yi yi yi,” said developer Bill Struever, when asked about the sculpture’s fate in a meeting organized by the Greater Baltimore Committee.  “We have to think of the diplomatic, graceful way to get everybody’s input…I wouldn’t dare opine on that.”

It’s “a hot topic,” said developer Tim Pula. “It comes up at every discussion.”

On May 21, Baltimore’s Public Art Commission, a city panel that advises the mayor on decisions pertaining to city-owned works of public art, will hold a meeting to learn about plans for the train station area and how they could affect Borofsky’s sculpture. The meeting is open to the public.

Read the complete article and Fishbowl’s interview with the artist here.

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