Whether you love, hate, or are simply confused by them, downtown Palm Springs' "Babies" statues have become as much a part of the area's fabric as Las Casuelas, over-the-top milkshakes and sunburned tourists.
But come June all but one of the babies sculpted by Czech artist David Černý will be heading to Mexico, leaving an empty hole in the city center and, presumably, several baby-sized ones in local art lovers' hearts.
Art dealer and gallerist Christian Hohmann, who represents Černý, told The Desert Sun residents might notice some of the statues being moved even sooner since the plan is to repaint all nine prior to the move.
A cluster of baby statues titled Babies by artist David Cerny is unveiled to the public in a construction pit in between the Palm Springs Art Museum and The Rowan hotel in Palm Springs on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.
The Mexican exhibition starts on June 30 and runs through next January. Hohmann said the future of the statues beyond that is undetermined, although there have been requests to display them in other places. And Černý recently opened his own museum in Prague and might look to display them there.The Babies' move was reported earlier by the Palm Springs Post.
While all of the statues in the pit will soon be gone, Hohmann said the city will be able to hold on to one of its famous faceless tykes, at least for a little while.
The “baby” that can be seen crawling on the side of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel adjacent to the pit will remain there for the duration of the Mexican exhibition, although Hohmann said it is likely Černý would want it included in any eventual exhibition at his museum if there is one.
The 10 statues of crawling babies with barcodes where their faces should be were first installed on the Žižkov Television Tower that overlooks Prague’s historic center in 2000. After the tower underwent renovations in 2016, Černý created a new set of babies that were to be attached to the tower, and the initial set was removed after changes were made to Prague’s building code. It was then that Hohmann and developer Michael Braun discussed asking Černý if he would allow the babies to be brought to Palm Springs and displayed on a lot Braun owns. The artist agreed, and the “Babies” were unveiled in the space in June 2018, immediately provoking a range of reactions.
The “Babies” were originally supposed to be in Palm Springs for twenty months, with Braun planning to build something on the site. However, construction delays, COVID-19, and other issues delayed those plans and led to the “Babies” staying around.
Hohmann said it is his understanding Braun still plans to eventually build on the site, though Hohmann was unsure of the details. Ideas have included apartments or a mixed-use development.
He added that Braun owns several neighboring properties and is planning to first develop a six-story mixed-use building on another lot to the northeast where Palm Springs’ sanctioned graffiti park is currently located, although the future of that project appeared then to have been thrown into doubt by a state ruling that workers will need to be paid the prevailing wage.
Both properties, along with the Kimpton, are part of a yearslong effort to redevelop the site of the old Fashion Plaza Mall.
Hohmann said the purpose of the “Babies” has always been to be provocative and depict what Cerny saw as the dehumanization of people.
“The stamp they have on their face is supposed to be a barcode, and the idea is that in our society if you don’t have your Social Security number or driver’s license number, if you don’t have those numbers, you don’t exist,” he said.
Hohmann said that while the sculptures stirred up plenty of the intended controversy, people seem to have taken to them.
“Ultimately people kind of dug it and were like ‘this is kind of cool,'" he said.