The most controversial new work of art in the United States is a sculpture that resides in an undisclosed warehouse location in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Hardly anyone knows where it is, and few have actually seen it. The people who commissioned the piece have warned the artist not to publicly identify himself.
They don’t think they’re being paranoid.
“We’ve gotten all kinds of hate mail,” Lucien Greaves, one of the people who commissioned the work, says. Greaves has received a number of emailed death threats, which he occasionally posts verbatim to his Facebook page: “I hope, I pray you get a bullet. You are evil your a monster, an obamanation…the evil radiates off you. I hope you suffer.” A guest on Don Imus’s show on Fox News remarked jocularly that Greaves and his cohorts behind the sculpture should be lined up next to it and shot.
Greaves hadn’t seen the artwork in person until recently. On a warm afternoon in early June, a friend drove him down to New York from his home near Boston so he could take a look. He arrived in Brooklyn just as the sun was setting and hurried into the space where the sculpture is kept, quickly shutting the warehouse door behind him. Someone had tweeted its rough location not long ago, and he was uneasy about prying eyes.
Greaves closed the blinds, then turned to face the sculpture. He inspected it for a moment or two with quiet satisfaction.
“I love it,” he said without smiling.
Not yet completed, the work is a huge statue of Baphomet, a horned, winged, sexually ambiguous, goat-like deity. Baphomet is usually depicted with a goat’s body and cloven hooves, a woman’s breasts and enormous, flared wings. A flame protrudes from the top of his head, and from his lap a staff with two snakes wrapped around it: a caduceus. Greaves asked the sculptor — we’ll call him “Jack” — to forgo the breasts. This Baphomet is smooth-chested and muscular, with thin, shapely lips and rectangular pupils. The sculptor based his physique on a blend of Michelangelo’s David and Iggy Pop.
When the piece is completed, Baphomet will be seated on a throne underneath an inverted pentagram. On either side of him, two children — a boy and a girl — will gaze up adoringly. On this day the little girl was absent, visiting another artist for some finishing touches. The boy was in place, his lips parted, his unpainted, dimpled Afro reminiscent of a giant golf ball.