In a city with a history of strange sights, there are few sights in San Francisco lore stranger than the eleven-foot bronze bunny — a bronze bunny with a skull in its mouth — floating gracefully through the air at the mercy of a crane.
The bunny’s creator Jeremy Fish was as awed by the scene as the dozen or so onlookers who gathered near Haight Street and Laguna to see Fish’s nearly-mythical bunny actually turn up.
“I just still can’t believe it’s sitting here,” Fish marveled as the massive sculpture finally touched down and was wiggled into place in front of the new Haight Street Art Center.
Fish had good reason to fear this blessed moment might never arrive. The installation of the two-ton behemoth was mired for months in a purgatory of city red tape, insurance issues and permit hell.
Despite a public crowd-funding campaign that generated $70,000 for its construction, a neighborhood psyched for its appearance, the bunny remained in storage in Berkeley’s Artworks Foundry where it was created.
“Making the statue’s pretty hard,” Fish said. “Getting it permitted in a public place — super hard.”
On Saturday a few hundred people turned-out to witness the sculpture’s unveiling — Fish peeled off a Pepto-Bismal colored shroud to enraptured applause.
“I would have to say this is probably one of the proudest moments of my career,” announced Fish, who last year served as the San Francisco’s first-ever city hall artist-in-residence.
Fish’s bunny sculpture was an homage to the pink fiberglass bunny he constructed in a friend’s driveway several years ago and installed in a corner of a building down the street that was slated for demolition. The six-foot tall pink bunny, as well as the murals on surrounding walls, was intended to remain about six months — but instead lasted three-and-a-half years — endearing itself to the neighborhood.
“I genuinely put that original statue there just for the fun of it,” Fish said, emphasizing he is not a sculptor — and has no desire to be a sculptor.
When the building came down, Fish staged a public funeral for his creation — it was demolished by a tractor. But the spirit of the bunny didn’t die in the demolition which yielded a corner of new condos. Instead he was approached by the Lower Haight Street Neighbors Association and a soon-to-come Haight Street Art Center to build a more lasting version of the bunny.
“‘Would you consider making a permanent version of it if we raise the money?’” Fish recalled. “I was like ‘yeah good luck.’”
But the Kickstarter campaign kicked in the funds and Fish hit-up an actual sculptor to help him create the piece. Despite figuring out how to actually build the thing, Fish said the most impressive part to him was that the public ponied-up the money to build it.
“This was literally paid for by citizens, mainly of this city and around the world,” Fish said.
Though San Francisco is filled with art, both good and bad, the sculpture may be the strangest. Fish said it’s believed to be the largest public bronze sculpture in California paid for by crowd-funding.
"Usually when you’re in public and you see a giant bronze,” Fish said, “some foundation paid for it or some rich collector paid for it.”
“I don’t think there’s too many people with that on their resume,” said Kevin Brancato, who manages Upper Playground, the Lower Haight shop that sells t-shirts emblazoned with Fish’s peculiar mix of creepy/cuddly illustrations.
Fish’s art is prolific in San Francisco, emblazoned on everything from skateboards, to murals to vinyl toys. But the bronze bunny may be his Pieta.
“Trying to describe it to people is fairly indescribable,” said Maeve Forester who turned-up to watch the installation.
To Fish, the bunny is more than just a peculiar art piece at what was once considered the gates of the Haight. It strikes him more as a statement about the kookiness of San Francisco, which somehow still glimmers beneath sparkling new condos and swanky hip restaurants.
“No matter what anybody wants to say about San Francisco becoming the tech city or the gentrified this or that,” Fish opined, “there’s still enough weirdos here to think a giant eleven foot tall bunny at the entrance to a neighborhood is a good idea.”