You’ve seen it on Instagram, but what exactly is the point of that giant statue of rhinos at Astor Place?
Heralded as the largest rhino sculpture in the world, The Last Three was created by husband-and-wife artist duo Gillie and Marc after raising money through a Kickstarter campaign. They created the statue to raise awareness of the endangered species, and they will be collecting messages on their website for a petition against the use of rhino horns.
Sadly, in the time between the statue’s reveal near the Astor Place Cube on March 15 and today, the last remaining male northern white rhinoceros, Sudan, died. The two females portrayed in bronze, Najin and Fatu, are still alive, and artificial insemination or crossbreeding do still provide the slim opportunity to continue the bloodline of the northern white rhinoceros.
To memorialize Sudan, Gillie and Marc told us they will place a black ribbon around his horn and ask visitors to leave flowers at the statue’s base. They stated in an Instagram post, "We have tears in our eyes and emptiness in our in heart as Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, has died. It was our greatest joy to spend a wonderful week with him at Ol Pejeta Conservancy and we will treasure that time for the rest of out lives.”
The condolences are lovely, sure, but note that on Gillie and Marc’s site, their first suggestion for ways to help the rhinos is to…tag their own hashtag. Donating to Ol Pejeta Conservancy comes in fourth. You can also buy a whole variety of your own miniature rhino sculptures on their site, which does not list prices nor tell you who the funds go to. In addition, the way the rhinos are stacked up like circus animals has also been flagged as problematic.
Still, you can’t argue that conservation of endangered species is a worthy cause, however iffy the execution of this specific piece of outdoor art may be.