Last month, Seattle real estate magnate Martin Selig had a large, bronze Botero sculpture of a naked man installed in downtown Seattle — and it’s attracting attention.
According to Merriam-Webster, “dingus” literally means “doodad” or “thing.” It is etymologically derived from the Dutch dinges — and, going back even further in time, the Old High German ding, which also means “thing.”
To some, “dingus” means “dimwit,” but it meant something else on the schoolyard when I was growing up. My first encounter with Dashiell Hammet’s “The Maltese Falcon” sent me running for the dictionary after reading one of detective Sam Spade’s lines about the small statue that drives the action of the story: “You got your dingus. It’s your hard luck, not mine, that it wasn’t what you wanted.”
Last month, Seattle real estate magnate Martin Selig had a 12-foot-tall statue of his own — a bronze work by renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero — installed in downtown Seattle, on the corner of Second Avenue and Madison Street. Since the statue is of a naked man, titled “Adam,” the dingus has a dingus of its own.
And that has generated a little excitement.
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“Our offices are right across the street,” said Sue McGuire, who works with Selig’s real estate company. People on the sidewalk, she said, “say ‘whoah!’ and stop to look.” Some viewers seem shocked. Others, she said, have complained that “he is not anatomically correct,” size-wise. Her response: “Well, it’s not pornography.”
And some, she added, stroll up to “Adam” to touch his front and back nether regions.
This habit has a precedent — another edition of Botero’s “Adam,” at the Time Warner Center in New York, has been polished gold in certain places by passers-by who can’t keep their hands to themselves.
“Adam,” of course, has a counterpart: “Eve,” which Selig also plans to install as a piece of public art in Seattle — she’s currently in his backyard — though he hasn’t announced where. “I try to get public art in every one of my buildings if there’s a place for it,” he said.
Selig owns many buildings across Seattle, including highflying glass structures downtown and the Elliott Bay Office Park. His “Adam” is placed outside the old Federal Reserve Building, which Selig recently purchased.
“I don’t keep my art in storage,” he said. “That’s just silly. I acquire things when I have a place to put them.”
Selig thinks the fuss about touching “Adam,” both in New York and Seattle, is overblown. “Think of Michelangelo’s ‘David,’” he said. “Do you have to go touch it? In Rome, can you touch that? Of course not!” (This isn’t Seattle’s first public-art male nude — “Father and Son” by Louise Bourgeois, part of Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park, generated its own controversy back in 2005.)
Selig is one of Seattle’s more powerful developers, and said he currently has 4.3 million square feet of commercial real estate with 1.5 million more “in development.” That’s a lot — in its 2016 U.S. Office Investment Forecast report, the brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap estimated that 3.3 million square feet of commercial office space were built during Seattle’s boom year of 2015.
Selig bought his first building when he was in college — a storage and shipping building near a Burgermaster restaurant in University Village. “I bought, I sold, I bought, I sold,” he said. “And then I started building shopping centers everywhere … It’s a tremendous amount of fun.” It can’t all have been fun — as The Seattle Times has reported, Selig spent years wrangling with bankruptcies, lawsuits from unhappy contractors and repeated threats from Seattle City Light to cut power to his properties after he was approximately $600,000 behind on his electricity bills.
Selig said it took him eight years to get his hands on “Adam,” and that the next sculpture he plans to buy is 27 feet tall. But he has to visit an undisclosed location in the Midwest first to see what it looks like in person.
“Oh, you’ll be tickled pink by it,” he said. “It’ll shock you! But I’m not going to tell you about it yet.”