Knockoff Florentijn Hofman Rubber Duck Damaged at Tall Ships Festival

A tugboat comes to the aid of the Tall Ships rubber duck.  Photo: Joseph Kaczmarek/ Inquirer

A tugboat comes to the aid of the Tall Ships rubber duck.
Photo: Joseph Kaczmarek/ Inquirer

You might call it bad mojo, but the world’s largest rubber duck (which looks suspiciously similar to artist Florentijn Hofman’s own inflatable waterfowl) suffered something of a wardrobe malfunction during the Tall Ships festival this past weekend in Philadelphia.

Rubber ducks have become practically synonymous with Hofman’s name after he unleashed several of the bath time critters in cities around the world, beginning in Amsterdam in 2007 and ending in China in 2014, where it is believed to have been lost in a flood.

In 2014, Hofman agreed to bring his giant rubber duck to the Tall Ships festival in Los Angeles, and allegedly sent over several drawings and specifications for the organizers to use to recreate the project.

But when the Dutch artist heard that the organizers were planning to revive the artwork again in Philadelphia without his permission, he was understandably shocked.

Florentijn Hofman's duck in Hong Kong.  Photo: Bobby Yip/Reuters.

Florentijn Hofman’s duck in Hong Kong.
Photo: Bobby Yip/Reuters.

“They don’t have permission to show my duck again,” he told Philadelphia Magazine. “And they are charging money for tickets. I want this rubber duck for the whole world to see. It is sad. They make it into this joke, but the rubber duck is not a joke. It is serious artwork which connects all people in the world.”

Tall Ships organizer Craig Samborski maintains that Hofman was paid in 2014 to deliver a set of engineered blueprints for the duck, which he did not do, and instead just provided a set of rudimentary line drawings. Samborski says he then had to pay contractors to engineer and assemble the duck for the LA edition of Tall Ships. Those same plans were then used in Philadelphia.

Therefore, Samborski maintains: “It’s not his duck. It’s just another large inflatable duck.”

Whoever has rights to the duck, it didn’t fare so well on its maiden voyage. CBS Philadelphia reports that the duck was missing from weekend festivities after the pontoon boat that it was riding on sprung a leak at the beginning of the festival on Thursday.

It was then discovered that the duck’s body had several holes in it, including a massive 60-foot gash, and despite the best efforts of a crew of “duck doctors,” it was unable to be revived in time for the end of Tall Ships.

The duck’s injuries have been attributed to a steel platform that wasn’t sturdy enough, and a new, inflatable base that quickly took in water from the leaky boat. But we can’t help but think the lack of involvement from the original artist may also have something to do with it.

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