South Korea. When you think of the East Asian democracy, Kim Jong Un threatening its existence will likely come to mind. But it’s a good bet that Dennis Oppenheimer won’t. The American conceptual artist rated a headline there on Jan. 18 when local authorities ordered one of his outdoor sculptures - a beachside installation erected in 2010 - destroyed, saying that it was “ugly” and an “eyesore.”

Where’s flower power when you need it?

The sculpture, called “Chamber,” was a larger-than-life metalwork shaped like flower petals that opened to allow the viewer the sensory experience of entering the bloom and moving through it, almost as if they were bumble bees feeding on its nectar.

The wreckage that the sculpture became was hauled off to a Waste Dump and without informing Oppenheimer’s estate, which holds the “intellectual property rights.” The artist died a year after the installation.

Benign neglect is a bad idea

Wait, there’s more. Given that there’s nothing inherently repugnant about the replica of a flower in Oppenheimer’s original design, what changed? Didn’t South Korea readily accept this sculpture eight years ago? Who made it ugly if not the artist? Answer: the caretakers, of course, those in charge of maintenance. Letting a sculpture fall into disrepair, particularly putting the metal parts at risk without protective coating in the sea air, doomed it. Losing its looks is on those who neglected it.

Using cubism for the wrong reason ‘

If you want to talk about ugly public sculpture, my vote goes to the Chicago Picasso, a 60-foot tall rendition of a woman rendered in the Cubist style. Accordingly, you see a face taken apart, presumably to allow multiple views. But the separations of the face seem wrenching, lending the image a violent air.

And she bears a striking resemblance to the artist’s painting of Dora Maar - his mistress of 10 years - titled “Weeping Woman.” The portrait was made when she became distraught over his leaving her for Francois Gilot.

Marring a woman’s reputation

Famously commenting on his depiction of Maar as “Weeping Woman,” Picasso said, “I could never see her, imagine her doing anything but crying.” One wonders how he accounts for all of his paintings of Maar that show her in other states, like “Woman Reclining with a Book.” Apparently, he also forgot the time she spent urging him on to paint his most celebrated work “Guernica” and helping him render it.

She was an accomplished artist in her own right, after all; although numerous biographies note how Picasso dissuaded her from her own work because he didn’t want the competition.

Turning the other cheek

Chicagoans, repulsed by this sculpture at first, have learned to love it, but I never have. Seeing a woman breaking down in the street and enlarged to 60 feet so you can’t miss it, is a sight that defines the word eyesore.

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