A part of me couldn’t help but laugh recently hearing news from Derry, where the CowParade recently rolled into town and was attacked. A Belfast Telegraph reported from October 10th notes that:
Two of the fibreglass animals which form part of the CowParade NI were targeted at the weekend.
The two life-sized sculptures were located in the heart of the city centre at a landscaped park opposite the Guildhall.
The cows were painted by local artists and community groups at the Playhouse Theatre and at Maydown.
They are now being removed so the damage can be assessed, and as a result of the destruction they will be relocated indoors once repaired.
Next year marks a decade since fiberglass cows were placed across the city of Dublin as part of the same project, with many of them vandalised and ultimately moved indoors. Even then, they were targeted in many cases.
CowParade events have been staged in over 75 cities worldwide, including New York, Istanbul and Milan. The project began in 1999, and it describes itself as the “largest and most successful public art event in the world.” The project has raised in excess of thirty million Dollars for charities worldwide, yet it’s 2003 run in Dublin was marred by the destruction of many of the cows, with Dublin becoming the only city at the time where the exhibition had to become an entirely indoors affair.
The CowParade in Dublin attracted a lot of media attention in the run up the public art project launching, with Kevin Sharkey discussing the project on the Late Late Show months before the cows were placed on Dublin’s streets. In an interview prior to the launch of CowParade, the CEO of Bord Fáilte told the Irish Independent that “the challenge is to be different from other cities, to somehow better everything that’s gone before us and really capture that quirky Dublin humour.”
Robert Ballagh, John Rocha, Gavin Friday, Graham Knuttel, Andrea Corr, Ronnie Woods and Felim Egan were just some of the names involved in the project here, and Rocha’s cow would sell for an incredible €125,000, bought by the Wagamamma restaurant in Dublin city centre.
The cows proved an irresistible temptation to Dublin vandals. In an interview with The Irish Times, Gerard Beshoff (director of the CowParade in Dulin) noted that at first only 10 cows were exhibited on the streets, and all 10 were vandalised within days. One cow was decapitated, while another had its wings cut from it. The cow on Liffey Street, which stood outside Pravda, was damaged in such a manner that a saw would have been required. The head of the cow was later discovered outside Cleary’s on O’Connell Street.
Organisers had planned to place 69 of the cows on the streets of Dublin, but the plan was quickly abandoned. Of the 69 which were placed around the capital indoors and outdoors, half were vandalised. They were eventually auctioned in November at the Four Seasons Hotel, before the CowParade moved on to pastures new.
The vandalism of the cows in Dublin sparked discussion both at home and abroad. Dr. Sarah Wagner-McCoy, an assistant professor at Reed College,noted that:
In other cities, the public loved the cows so much that they would defend them if anyone tried to vandalize them, but in Dublin, the cows were smashed, stolen, beheaded and covered in graffiti, even after the exhibit was officially over and the cows were moved to less public places.
Wagner-McCoy’s suggested that this phenomenon went back to the destruction of monuments in Dublin historically, which had been found politically disagreeable by Irish nationalists. Perhaps a better historic precedent was the ‘Bowl of Light’, which had sat on O’Connell Bridge prior to part of it being flung into the river by vandals in 1953.
“It’s so depressing, but not surprising” said Amy Wallace, a CowParade Ireland account executive, to The Irish Times at the time of the pointless vandalism.”The awful thing is, we were kind of expecting it in Dublin.”