CowParade

Brooklyn cow

CowParade is an international public art exhibit where fiberglass sculptures of cows are decorated by local artists and distributed in public places. After the exhibition in a city, which may last many months, the statues are auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity.

They often feature artwork and designs specific to local culture, as well as city life and other relevant themes. There are a few variations of shape, but the three most common shapes of cow were created by Pascal Knapp, a Swiss-born sculptor who was commissioned to create the cows specifically for the CowParade. He owns the copyrights to the standing, lying, and grazing cow shapes used.

The concept of ‘cow parade’ has its origins in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1998 and artistic director Walter Knapp. It is based on an idea which was realized in the same city for the first time in 1986: Lions as the symbol of Zurich were painted and then on display throughout the city.

The concept was brought to the United States when Chicago businessman Peter Hanig, along with Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg, organized an event in Chicago in 1999 called ‘Cows on Parade.’ A bronze casting of one of the cows is on permanent display in Chicago in commemoration of the city’s initial exhibition.

The success of this venture inspired many other cities to host similar fundraising projects. The idea has been taken up by other cities which have chosen animals for public art projects with painted fiberglass sculptures.

CowParade has been criticized by contributing artists for their selectivity standards; David Lynch’s cow with its flesh partially ripped off, and organs showing, was rejected. The explanation is that this particular CowParade cow was rejected by the City of New York, not the CowParade organization. A Swedish organization called The Militant Graffiti Artists of Stockholm kidnapped and decapitated one of the cows of the Stockholm event in protest of the publicly provisioned cows carrying advertisements.

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