The Friday Report: It’s a horse of course
Ryan Summerlin February 7, 2013
I know nothing about horses and not a lot about art, but for the last five years I’ve thought DIA’s 32-foot tall glossy-blue, plastic horse with the red laser eyeballs was the stuff of creepy nightmares.
The 9,000-pound sculpture, titled “Mustang” (nicknamed DIAblo), is the ambassador to Denver International Airport, frightening visitors from all over the world. If inspiration springs from good art, the Mustang inspires thoughts of flight insurance.
On Monday, Mustang turns 5 years old. This is a notable birthday for the behemoth because the Denver Commission of Cultural Affairs has a rule that public art must remain in place for five years before petitions can be filed to remove it. Some people love Mustang, others, not so. Then-mayor Hickenlooper damned it with faint praise, “Not only is it his largest sculpture, but … it has so much energy that is controlled within it,” he said, likely referring to the transformers inside powering the lasers.
Denver paid $72.22 per pound for this colorful horseflesh, $650,000 for the whole carcass. It was literally the final masterwork of New Mexico artist Luis Jimenez, who was crushed to death in his studio when the head section slipped from a hoist. That led everyone to ask, “What’s up with Denver and the Big Blue Animals?”
There’s a giant Blue Bear peering into the Denver Convention Center that cost a mere $395,000 and tops out eight feet taller. That makes the bear a bargain but folks still ask, “How much Bear could a taxpayer bear, if a taxpayer could bear Bears?”
Back in 1977, the Colorado General assembly passed the Art in Public Places Act, requiring that 1 percent of capital construction funds for new or renovated state buildings be set aside for the acquisition of works of art for the project site. A $4.8 billion airport meant a $48 million windfall for formerly starving artists.
The mustang was named “Mustang” because “Bronco” was taken. It was commissioned in 1992 by then-Mayor Wellington Webb but took 16 years to wander in off the range. Jimenez missed four deadlines for the delivery of “Monster” uh, make that “Mustang”, but try to see it from the mayor’s side: If your heart’s set on a pony, what’s a little wait? Finally, in an effort to save some face, the City of Denver filed a lawsuit against Jimenez, in essence begging him to hurry up.
After the rampant beast was erected, it took a while to get used to the anatomical correctness of Jimenez’ work (CAUTION: Do not look on Google Image for a rear view of Mustang). There was even a blue horse haiku contest that produced inscrutable poems like:
Anxiously I fly
Apocalyptic hell beast
Fails to soothe my nerves
Big blue horse beckons
Fiery, red eyes glowering
Good bye one-horse town
Love it or hate it, it will probably endure to welcome future frightened fliers to the Mile High City. I, for one, am all for keeping it. It clearly puts Denver in first place among the hooves and the hooves-not.