Imagine your little bath-time rubber ducky on steroids and you can appreciate the magnanimity of Florentjin Hofman’s Big Yellow Duck, officially titled “Rubber Duck.” Its many incarnations of varying heights have merrily floated on waters all around the world. (Mini-versions stood at 5 meters, while the largest version could tower over 5 story buildings with a height of 18 meters.) However, Rubber Duck was extraordinarily well received in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where it “attracted four million visitors during a one month display” (BBC News).
I initially scoffed at the Taiwanese news for extensively covering the Big Yellow Duck, but I must admit that I did enjoy visiting the adorable yellow behemoth. On a long weekend, my classmates and I traveled to southern Taiwan, passing through Kaohsiung on our way to Kenting, where Rubber Duck was stationed in the harbor. While we considered ignoring the hype, we decided to see what all the fuss was about. It was a free attraction, and besides, we could gawk at tourists, at the very least.
At Glory Pier vendors peddled duck paraphernalia of every variety. Children and adults delighted in perusing the duck-themed souvenirs: apparel featuring yellow duckies, small replicas of the duck, yellow duck balloons, and duck everything else. One of my classmates made off with a plush duck, too large for me to wrap my arms around; he un-aptly named it “Little Duck” and somehow managed to stuff it on the plane back to the States.
The joyful atmosphere near the harbor was amplified as we approached the happy Duckzilla. Even though nighttime had fallen, Rubber Duck remained in the spotlight for his adoring fans. He starred in photos and selfies galore — some demonstrating the giant mass of tourists that he had attracted. Although reticent at first, everyone enjoyed the festivity inspired by the gargantuan sunshiny waterfowl.
And while you may think the concept of the Rubber Duck is simple – Dutch artist, Hofman explains his work in a sophisticated way, “The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate people[sic] and doesn’t have a political connotation. The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve mondial tensions as well as define them. The rubber duck is soft, friendly and suitable for all ages” (Florentjin Hofman website).
On the surface, Rubber Duck was just a spectacle to serve as a selfie background, but he accomplished all that his creator intended him to do. Rubber Duck reminded me to appreciate the unique and quirky works of art that are embraced by a culture and scattered throughout the world in various forms – such as the Mannekin-Pis in Belgium, the LOVE sculpture in New York City, Cloud Gate (affectionately known as “The Bean”) in Chicago, etc.