The New Astor Place Rhino Sculpture Is a Kitschy Monstrosity

Photo: Gillie and Marc

The Last Three, the seven-ton, 17-foot-high “tallest bronze rhino sculpture in the world,” made by the Australian “extraordinary public artists” Gillie and Marc — who, according to their website, “first met on a film shoot in Hong Kong; then 7 days later, ran away to Nepal and married on the foothills of Mt. Everest and whose unparalleled love is the cornerstone of what they are and what they create” — is now installed a few feet from Alamo, the spinning black cube by Bernard Rosenthal at Astor Place and Lafayette Street. It is an ugly, bathos-filled folly that proves my adage that 95 percent of all public sculpture is crap. Thank goodness this crap is only temporary.

This surreal-ish kitsch monstrosity is a stack of the last three northern white rhinos on Earth. The bottom one is standing with the next one resting on it, back to back — why? — facing up, and then supports the third one on its feet. It’s like a Vegas acrobatic act. The actual animals live protected around the clock in a small wildlife compound in northern Kenya. (Rhino horns, although they’re made of the same material as fingernails, are worth their weight in gold, which is why poachers destroyed the species.) On Gillie and Marc’s website (artists really need to use more than one name) you can see the saccharine sight of this ultrawhite couple — she resembles Nicole Kidman, he a young Christopher Reeve — petting, hugging, and kissing Sudan, 45, the male whose sperm count is too low to reproduce, and his daughter Najin, 27, and granddaughter Fatu, 11. Both of the females are infertile. This is the definition of the phrase “white mischief.”

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