After touring the world’s waterways for the past seven years, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck has finally arrived in California, pulling into the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday. There it sits alongside battleships and other vessels, anchored to a barge and illuminated until 11pm each night, as part of the Tall Ships Festival LA. Although the oversized bathtub toy has previously visited Pittsburgh and Norfolk, VA, this marks its West Coast debut.
Originally created by Hofman in 2007, various versions of the sculpture ranging from 16 – 59 feet high (LA’s tops them all at 61 feet!) have graced the ports of Australia, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, and elsewhere as a kind of goodwill art ambassador. According to the artist’s website, “the Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate people and doesn’t have a political connotation.”
Despite the Duck’s unifying lack of meaning or purpose, it has had its fair share of controversy. In 2009, when it was stationed in the Belgian city of Hasselt, locals stabbed it 42 times. Last summer its Hong Kong visit coincided with the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, inspiring a mashup of the iconic “Tank Man” image with a row of feel-good rubber ducks. Chinese sensors promptly added “big yellow duck” to their list of banned words on social media platform Weibo, alongside “June 4” and “Tiananmen Square.” Earlier in its Hong Kong stay, the Duck proved so popular that Chinese knock-offs popped up online and unscrupulous realtors began placing unauthorized replicas in front of their properties. Even Mother Nature unleashed her wrath on the inoffensive inflatable, deflating the Duck twice – in Hong Kong it was blamed on a storm, while eagles were the likely culprits in Taiwan. Earlier this summer while stationed in China, heavy flooding swept the 1-ton floater down the Nanming River, never to be seen again.
Barring similar acts of God, the Duck will be on view through Sunday. Tickets are $15-$19.