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Steve's Pick

The future, as embodied in a 1920s icon

Steve Leveen, CEO and Co-founder
Steve Leveen, CEO and Co-founder

When I first encountered the Wrestler more than 10 years ago in his Miami museum, The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, he had a visceral effect on me. I was transfixed in wonder, and a bit of trepidation. Maybe it was because as a child I had dreams of giant robots that methodically scanned the countryside and could see any movement and zap it with beams emanating from their cold eyes. But whatever the reason, the sculpture had that effect on me described by my friend, the art historian Roger Hurlburt, as "when art grabs you by the collar, and shakes you violently, like a dog with a rabbit." The Wrestler pinned me on the spot. Turns out, I was not alone.

The Wrestler has made a long career of pinning those who cast eyes on him, including those at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, where he loomed atop the wrestling arena. I can only imagine what people then, most of whom were born in the 19th century, felt when they gazed upon the 6'6" intimidating form.

He was more intimidating due to what he was made from—the then-modern material of aluminum, 475 pounds of it. The American sculptor Dudley Vaill Talcott (1899-1986) was making a statement using the material of Lindbergh's plane, and the material that in a few more years would metamorphose into the skin of war planes.

The original Wrestler at the Wolfsonian-FIU
The original Wrestler at the Wolfsonian-FIU

To me, the Wrestler embodies the promise and the dangers of a technology that evolves with humans along converging, accelerating paths. Pride, fear, astonishment, and finally, hope—hope that we'll be able to control what we have wrought.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

About a year ago I encountered the Wrestler again, when I had a chance to visit him where he now resides, in The Wolfsonian-FIU, during a swank cocktail party. Again the Wrestler awed me, but this time I met the director of that remarkable institution, Cathy Leff, who awed me in a different way—in her warmth, intelligence, and enthusiasm.

I asked Cathy if a reproduction of the Wrestler had ever been attempted. She said, remarkably, that it had not. Our discussion then excitedly passed to the necessity of doing it digitally, so as not to miss any aspect of the original wonder. And besides, we owed it to his very modernity to scan him digitally, because now it could be done, and to make the mighty models just as vivid as their progenitor, save for scale.

What followed were long months of challenging execution, but thanks to Cathy's perseverance, the help of Florida International University School of Architecture and many more months of trial and error in production, we are delighted and proud to present to you the Wrestler you can own.

"High tech meets Art Deco" was Roger's first art-historian reaction when he met the mighty miniature a few weeks ago. And the second: "a time-honored classical image married with technology." He then reminded me of how science fiction and robots both arrived on the scene at about the same time as the Wrestler. ("Robot" first appeared as a word in 1921, just a few short years before the Wrestler, in the Czech play "R.U.R.," or "Rossum's Universal Robots.")

I'm going to bring two of them home myself, and place them where I can keep an eye on them and make sure they don't take over the neighborhood with paralyzing beams. I'll give them a big job to keep them occupied, like holding up massive books of modern art.

I'm also proud that the Wrestler is the latest example in a growing line of Partnering for Good products that we create with institutions. We'll donate a portion of each Wrestler sale to The Wolfsonian-FIU, so that it may carry on its remarkable work.

Check out our interview with the founder and director of The Wolfsonian-FIU, whose sobriquet is "the museum of thinkism".

Steve and Lori Leveen, Founders Steve Leveen
CEO and Co-founder

P.S. Let me know what art has tossed you around like a play toy.