Amid all the swimming with sharks that occurs in the Financial District, this humpback-whale sculpture provides a moment of calm.
Name of installation: Megaptera
Artist: Georg Schmerholz
Location: 121 King St. W.
Date of display: 1993
What’s it supposed to be?: The city has no lack of animal-themed public artworks: In and around the Financial District alone, there’s Derrick S. Hudson’s elephant family in Tembo, Joe Fafard’s lounging cows in The Pasture, and Cynthia Hurley’s mutant sheepdog-like creatures in (the oddly named) Remembered Sustenance. These are all near life-sized sculptures, however, and distinctly pieces of public art in both size and material. Georg Schmerholz’s Megaptera (which means “great wings” and is the scientific name for a humpback whale) is much more intricate; it’s also smaller-than- life and elaborately made from a single piece of granite. Schmerholz has previously written that in “European sculpture the subject of wildlife is rarely explored.” The artist is influenced by his first adopted home, the Pacific Northwest, and now sculptures of eagles, falcons, and whales (including this, which depicts a mother humpback whale and her baby) make up a large part of the artist’s repertoire. In regards to the piece’s meaning, like many other wildlife themed installations, it adds a bit of wild or rural flair to the urban jungle, and, in a phone interview, Schmerholz admitted that the mother-and-child theme is meant to reflect the values of Standard Life Assurance Company, who commissioned the piece nearly two decades ago.