Colombian artist Fernando Botero's "Adam" at the Time Warner Center was recently featured in an article authored by Andy Newman for the The New York Times. The deep brown-colored, 12-foot tall bronze nude sculpture has a noticeable discoloration in the genitals. It has been revealed that the extensive "grabbing" by visitors, shoppers and tourists is responsible for the worn golden discoloration. According to the Time Warner Center's general manager, an art dealer has to come in and redo the patina from time to time for maintenance. Both the Adam and Eve Botero sculptures have been relocated from their original installation site to accomodate the ongoing Salvador Dali sculpture exhibit.Around the world and throughout history, of course, people have rubbed statues for luck, from Abraham Lincoln’s nose in Illinois to Lou Costello’s shoein Paterson, N.J., to the snout of the Porcellino boar in Florence to various parts of the charging bull of Wall Street.
Sculptured phalluses, in particular, are associated with fertility and power. The genitals of hermai in ancient Athens were anointed with olive oil, while farmers worshiped the improbably endowed god Priapus in hope of a more bounteous harvest. In India and Nepal, people touch, kiss and offer rice and flowers to lingams, believed by many scholars to represent the god Shiva’s penis.
People touch and pose with Adam’s penis for many reasons. Because it’s unusual. Because it’s funny. Because it’s just the right combination of naughty and not-too-naughty. Because it’s not in a museum but in a shopping center, where the goods are meant to be handled.