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Controversial sleepwalker sculpture wakes up the High Line

Written by
Howard Halle

It’s spring, which means another season of art projects taking up the High Line. But this year’s edition includes something sure to grab people’s attention, because it already has.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the High Line in NYC

The creation of artist Tony Matelli—who’s exhibited at MoMA PS 1 as well as numerous Chelsea galleries—Sleepwalker, as the piece is called, is a life-size hyper-realistic figure of a shaven-headed man wearing nothing but a pair of tighty-whities. Eyes closed with arms stretched limply in front of him, he appears to be experiencing the bout of somnambulism suggested by the title.

The result is uncanny, but this is not the work’s first public appearance. In 2014, Sleepwalker was installed on the campus of Wellesley, the distinguished women’s college just outside of Boston, causing some of the students to lose some shut eye over his appearence. A petition was circulated calling for the sculpture’s removal because it had become “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community.” It probably didn’t help matters that the work seem to materialize overnight in the middle of February after a snow storm, and that, it looked convincingly like a real person a dorm window. (Or up close, for that matter.)

Here in New York, though, Matelli’s creation is less likely to get people’s undies in a bunch. This is, after all, the city that never sleeps

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