Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

"Mustang," aka Blucifer, marks fifth birthday with debate about its fate at DIA

"Mustang," the art you love to hate, is all grown up. Five years ago today, Luis Jiminez's 32-foot-high fiberglass sculpture of a wild horse was installed outside Denver International Airport -- a dozen years late. In the intervening years, its cost had doubled from the original $300,000 commission, and its value then tripled to $2 million -- but the artist had also paid the ultimate price for its creation, when a piece of the work fell on him in his studio, severing an artery. Jiminez bled to death.

From the moment "Mustang" appeared rearing up on the prairie, its red eyes gleaming, everyone became a critic. Some loved Jiminez's piece; others loathed it. It quickly acquired nicknames: Blucifer, Demon horse. One local realtor started a campaign to get rid of "Mustang," and quickly acquired thousands of Facebook friends -- as well as lots of national attention. Responding to media inquiries, Denver officials pointed to the city's art policy that stipulated a piece of public art had to be in place for five years before Denver would consider moving it...or removing it.

Today marks the end of five years, and the process could be started to put "Mustang" out to pasture.

But should this horse be sent to the glue factory?

A funny thing has happened over the past five years: People have come to love the sculpture. Or if not love it, love to loathe it. It has become uniquely ours, a symbol of this city -- like it or not. When DIA conducted a public-art survey in the fall of 2011, preparatory to the next big round of art-acquisition for the new South Terminal project, it found that "Mustang" was far and away the best-known piece of art at the airport. Although opinions were divided, just about everyone surveyed at least had an opinion. And in inspiring that amount of thought alone, "Mustang" had done its job as a piece of public art.

We conducted our own "Mustang" poll ten days ago -- and found that not only did most people have an opinion, they'd grown rather fond of "Mustang."

It might be a devil horse, but it's our devil horse. Happy birthday, "Mustang." Here's to many more.

From our archives: "After five years, it could be time for 'Mustang' to mosey on."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun