An unflattering, naked statue of Donald Trump that showed up in San Francisco's Castro district was removed Thursday night by the San Francisco Department of Public Works. It was one of five statues of the Republican presidential candidate placed in major cities around the country on Thursday morning by the anarchist artist collective INDECLINE.
The artwork is now sitting out of public view at the Mission Police Station.
Officer Carlos Manfredi, an SFPD spokesman, said it was removed because it was creating a public safety hazard and was placed without a permit.
"A lot people [were] showing up to that specific corner and then spilling over onto the street," Manfredi said. "Cars [were] slowing down to see what was going on and take photographs."
Throughout the day on Thursday, "The Emperor Has No Balls" (more popularly known as "Naked Trump") by the artist Ginger was a big hit with passersby, who crowded around taking photos with the statue.
"We were most excited to put it on that piece of property in Castro to see how it would play out," said a spokesman for INDECLINE, who refused to identify himself, saying that members of the collective who commissioned and installed the statues never share their names. "The reaction was exactly what we had hoped for and more."
INDECLINE knew the statues would be taken down since they had been installed illegally. But in the digital age, "Naked Trump" will never really be out of the public eye.
"Visual work really lends itself to all the different social media that we have access to right now," said Christian Frock, a scholar in residence at the California College for the Arts who studies the intersection of art and politics and a regular contributor to KQED Arts.
She pointed to sites like Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook that allow images of public art to spread quickly and connect with a multi-generational audience. Even Frock's mom, whom the scholar deems "worlds apart" from her when it comes to aesthetic tastes, saw the sculpture online.
"I think that in a lot of ways the work has been effective in engaging a very broad public in a conversation about [Trump]," Frock said.
Frock said this kind of art isn't supposed to be liked and that discomfort could be part of what's made "Naked Trump" such a lightning rod for discussion.
"I don't think we're supposed to feel comfortable about this," Frock said. "I'd venture that the potential for social change coming out of these conversations is far greater with ugly work than with anything else."
A police spokesman said this particular "ugly work" will remain in police custody until someone from INDECLINE shows up to pay the $4,000-plus fine for the illegally-placed statue and the street damage caused by its removal.