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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Artist’s Heinous “Santa the Hutt” Sculpture Delights and Disgusts

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The sculpture “Santa the Hutt,” an off-color Christmas-themed “Star Wars” pun that artist Cianna Valley created for San Francisco retailer Betabrand’s holiday window display in its 780 Valencia Street store, has proved to be a big hit with many visitors. Company founder Chris Lindland told the Huffington Post that more than 1,000 families have posed with the enormous artwork so far this holiday season. While the artist and company intended “Santa the Hutt” to be a gross-out joke, and perhaps even a satire of holiday season consumerism run amok — a Betabrand press release explained that “not even Santa Claus could resist the orgy of holiday excess” — many people aren’t laughing, seeing the sculpture as an offensive joke at the expense of the homeless, the overweight, and the disabled.

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“Because negative depictions of fat people go with cruel stereotypes about poor/homeless people who have mental illness or substance abuse issues, like rotten egg goes with groggy nog,” Marilyn Wann writes in S.F. Weekly, taking the artist and company to task for the tasteless display.

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“The shop’s website says they want to ‘poke fun at holiday excess,’” Wann continues. “While they sell $168 executive hoodies!?! In his Facebook comment, the shopkeeper said they weren’t mocking fat people because ‘Santa isn’t a person.’ If you buy that, I’ve got a hoodie to sell you.”

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Additional information from Betabrand obtained by the Huffington Post about the offending artwork provides a not-so-elaborate background for “Santa the Hutt”:

After gorging himself on fruitcake and fortified wine, this slovenly mass of groaning, velvet-ensconsed blubber has relocated to the floor of the Betabrand company store in San Francisco. He now begrudgingly poses for holiday photos with Betabrand customers — if only because he’s too obese to move.

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Santa The Hutt will be appearing at Betabrand throughout the holiday season. If you get to meet him or — God forbid — sit on his vast, undulating lap, we recommend that you thoroughly disinfect afterward. Penicillin is also suggested.

And now you can add people with diabetes to the long list of offended parties. There do not appear to be any plans to remove the ill-conceived sculpture earlier than originally planned.

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Watch a video montage of people posing with “Santa the Hutt”:

— Benjamin Sutton (@bhsutton)

(Photos Courtesy Betabrand.)

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