The year 2013 may go down in Taiwanese history books as the year of the great duck war. Cities and counties around the nation have been battling to host one of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s giant artworks since one of his Rubber Duck pieces visited Hong Kong in June.
Greater Kaohsiung beat its rivals on Monday as Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) signed a contract with Hofman.
“The yellow duck is scheduled to anchor at Glory Pier (光榮碼頭) in the Lingya District (苓雅) for a month from September 19 to October 20 and is expected to attract about 3 million tourists and NT$1 billion [US$33.3 million] in tourism revenue,” Chen said after inking the deal.
Chen said Kaohsiung’s duck would be a customized version that would be built by two Taiwanese companies in accordance with Hofman’s instructions.
Hofman said about 300 cities and organizations, including 23 from Taiwan, have expressed interest in hosting his iconic ducks since the 39-day Hong Kong residency of a 16.5m tall version.
“However, the warmth and sincerity of Kaohsiung City Government officials and the beautiful photographs of the city’s harbor prompted me to choose Kaohsiung as the first destination for the duck’s visit in Taiwan,” Hofman said.
Chen said she had written to Hofman personally and sent Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Lee Yung-te (李永得) to Hong Kong in June to meet the artist.
“Impressed by our endeavors, Hofman signed a memorandum of understanding with the city government on June 18,” Chen said
The royalties for the duck’s visit would be paid solely by private companies such as Formosa Plastics Group and Nan Ya Plastics Corp, not the city, she said.
Kaohsiung Information Bureau Director Lai Rui-lung (賴瑞隆) said the custom-made duck would become the city’s property and would be deflated for storage afterwards.
“However, the city would have to sign a new contract with Hofman if it wants to put the duck back on display in the future,” Lai said.
Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) also announced on Monday that the duck’s next scheduled stop in Taiwan would be his county.
“From October 26 to November 10, the duck will be floating in the 20-hectare Houhu Pond (後湖埤) in Sinwu Township (新屋) as part of our first Taoyuan Land Art Festival,” Wu said.
Wu said the county is home to more than 3,000 ponds and that the festival aims to highlight their beauty.
The duck’s appearance will help promote the festival, he said.
“After all, ducks are supposed to swim in ponds, not the sea,” Wu said jokingly.
Monday’s announcements came as a surprise to many because Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai (黃景泰) had announced on July 24 that the city had secured a visit by the giant bathtub toy.
At the time, Huang said that a Hofman duck would dock in the Keelung Harbor for six weeks from mid-December to late January next year for the Christmas, New Year and the Lunar New Year holidays.
Downplaying the awkwardness of being trumped by Kaohsiung, Huang on Monday said the only thing that mattered was that Keelung had secured a visit by the much sought-after duck.
Judging local governments on the order in which they host the floating sculpture would run counter to the spirit of happiness it represents, he said.
Hofman is due to sign a contract with the Keelung City Government on Aug. 20.
Both Kaohsiung and Keelung’s ducks will be 18m high, making them the second-tallest in the world after Hofman’s 26m original, created in 2007 for display in Saint-Nazaire, France.