Derek Jeter Finally Gets a Win: Red Grooms’s Kitschy Home Run Sculpture Will Be Removed From Miami’s Marlins Park
The Marlins will have to pay $2.5 million if Grooms chooses to disavow the work in its new location.
Red Grooms’s home run sculpture is getting benched. Bowing to the will of baseball legend Derek Jeter, owner and CEO of the Miami Marlins, Miami-Dade County has given the team permission to move the artist’s giant sculpture Homer—a seven-story whirring spectacle of light, color, and palm trees—out of Marlins Park to a plaza outside of the stadium. The 81-year-old artist has been outspoken in his opposition to moving the work and could opt to disavow it as per the terms of his contract.
“Moving Homer anywhere else is destroying it. Please keep Homer doing its job and let him be part of the celebration of the Marlins right where he belongs,” wrote Grooms and his wife, Lysiane Grooms, in an email to the county, as reported by the Miami Herald. According to the paper, Grooms was unswayed by a personal appeal from Jeter, who visited him at his current gallery show at New York’s Marlborough Contemporary. The artist claims the un-weatherized work is not meant to be displayed outside and will be damaged by the elements. (Marlins Park is an indoor stadium.)
The former longtime New York Yankees star purchased a four percent stake in the franchise in September 2017 and was named CEO. It quickly became clear that removing Grooms’s quirky ode to tropical Miami was near the top of the new boss’s to-do list. (In public, Jeter has been diplomatic about his feelings, simply telling the Herald and other reporters “It’s big. I mean, it’s unique. It’s a unique sculpture.”)
Despite Groom’s objections, the plan is to move the 73-foot-tall piece to a new art boardwalk outside the stadium, with an eight-foot-tall fence to be erected around what has been dubbed the Marlins Park Art Walk. During home games, Homer comes to life for every Marlins home run, shooting off jets of water—30 gallons every time—as marlins and flamingos whir through the air for a period of 29 seconds.
Once reinstalled, Homer will be activated every afternoon at 3:05 p.m.—in honor of the city’s area code—as well as after Marlins home runs. The new location “will allow the piece to be enjoyed year-round in a more public-facing manner,” the Marlins said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
Initial proposals had called for moving the sculpture further afield, possibly to Miami International Airport, so creating an art walk was seen as a compromise position. Tuesday’s vote from the county’s Art in Public Places board was the final regulatory hurdle in the sculptures’s eviction.
Taking the artwork’s place in centerfield will be a tiered standing-room-only section where fans will be able to watch the game for as little as $10—but it’s not as though the team is expanding capacity in response to overwhelming ticket demand. The Marlins only drew 811,104 fans in 2018, the lowest single-season attendance number in baseball since the Expos prepared to leave Montreal in 2004. As reported by the Miami New Times, the team’s per-game average of 10,013 tickets sold barely eclipsed that of some minor league teams.
Nevertheless, the team will begin dismantling Homer as soon as possible in the hopes of completing the new spectator section—designed to appeal to millennials with restaurants and bars for socializing—in time for the start of the 2019 season. The art walk probably won’t make its debut until a later date, but the team will pay a $2,000-a-day fine if Homer hasn’t returned by January 1, 2020.
The decision to move Homer could prove a pricey one for the Marlins, who still have a $1.2 billion ballpark loan to pay off. The $2.5 million artwork was commissioned by Miami-Dade County in 2012 for the opening of Marlins Park, fulfilling the team’s obligation to pay for county-owned public art as part of the massive construction project. Former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer who collects Grooms’s work, had asked his friend to design the piece for the site.
Reaction to the news of the artwork’s exile has been mixed. The Miami New Times isn’t mourning the demise of the “sad, utterly hideous contraption,” instead complaining that the “seven-story monstrosity—which makes a complete mockery of Miami’s actually cool status as a tropical paradise” will still have a presence even outside the team’s stadium.
Others had a fondness for the carnivalesque artwork, with Twitter user Adam Bertolett calling it “great pop art, uniquely suited to an otherwise characterless franchise.”
SportsNet New York reporter Andy Martino also slammed the move, writing on Twitter that “to discard this work is so small-minded. Baseball is middle school, and Grooms’ work was deemed uncool.” And the Comeback blasted Jeter, calling him “an 80-year-old curmudgeon disguised in the body of a 44-year-old” for not being able to appreciate the “unique and playful” artwork.
As a small consolation to the artist, Grooms is not the only bold-faced name to be jettisoned by Jeter recently. Last off-season, Jeter held a fire sale, trading away the team’s three star outfielders, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton. (For the record, Stanton told Sports Illustrated that “I can’t stand that sculpture.”) The prospects the Marlins received in return haven’t exactly set the world on fire, and Jeter’s first year as owner ended with a last-place finish in the National League.
At least one Twitter user saw a connection between the team’s unpopular trade decisions and the loss of Homer. “Makes sense,” wrote @TruthfulBurns. “With no good hitters left what’s the point of a home run statue?” Others likened it to another bad roster move, with @Rhett_CTR joking that the piece had been “traded for a statue to be built later.”
As of press time, Grooms had not returned artnet News’s request for comment, and it was unclear whether he would remove his name from the controversial artwork. His show, “Red Grooms: Handiwork, 1955–2018,” is on view at Marlborough Contemporary through October 27.
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