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Unveiling the creative spirit behind DOUBLE DUCKS with Florentijn Hofman

MMM DD YYYYWORDS BY CHARLIE NG

On June 18, hundreds of visitors flocked to Victoria Dockside in Hong Kong as a giant inflatable duck graced the harbor outside K11 MUSEA — the city’s esteemed cultural retail destination — as part of the “Florentijn Hofman: DOUBLE DUCKS” exhibition organized by Hong Kong-based studio AllRightsReserved (ARR).

 

With a height of 18 meters each, the DOUBLE DUCKS are designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman as a part of his iconic Rubber Duck series. The series is typical of Hofman’s playful installations, which often portray larger-than-life everyday objects or animals in public spaces. 

 

First debuted in 2007 at the Estuary Biennale in St Nazaire, France, the Rubber Duck series has since traveled, in different sizes, to many cities around the world, including São Paulo, Osaka, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Seoul.

DOUBLE DUCKS marks the 10th anniversary of the Rubber Duck’s first appearance in Hong Kong in 2013, launched by Hofman in collaboration with ARR. Then standing at 16.5 meters tall, the solo Rubber Duck had attracted over 8 million visitors.

 

This success was repeated with the Duck's recent return, this time bringing a friend for twice the fun. Despite an early mishap — one duck deflated on its first day of arrival, though it was quickly restored — the pair drew in crowds from all over Hong Kong. The duckies also made surprise visits at various landmarks all over the city, in the form of artworks by local creatives. When the pair sailed away on June 18, hundreds gathered at the harbor, braving heavy rain to say goodbye.

 

As we bid adieu to the DOUBLE DUCKS for now, let’s relive their Hong Kong journey — with an interview featuring the artist himself.

It’s been 16 years since the Rubber Duck series first started touring around the world. What are some of your most memorable moments with the series?

 

The kind of artwork I’ve created throughout my artist career is to challenge the audience’s comfortableness or literal perspective on quotidian objects. Simply put, I want you to see something different than what you normally see. That’s why I’ve chosen Rubber Duck to embark on a world tour. It is a daily object that sparks our inner child. It has been fascinating to see the Rubber Duck connect people regardless of age, gender, and race from one stop to another.

 

 

The Rubber Duck was inspired by a bathtub rubber duck toy designed by a Hong Kong-based toy company. Do you see a special significance in Rubber Duck revisiting Hong Kong as DOUBLE DUCKS?

 

DOUBLE DUCKS means Double Luck! The Rubber Duck is one of the Hong Kong signatures and used to create good memories to Hong Kong people in 2013. This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Rubber Duck tour in Hong Kong. Though I was hesitant when AllRightsReserved invited me to bring back the Rubber Duck to Hong Kong, we ended up working together once again to bring joy to Hong Kong people. This time, we made it double.

 

 

How do you hope to inspire others through the Rubber Duck series? How do you feel about being able to spread the healing power of art and joy to the cities Rubber Duck has traveled to?

 

The concept of “DOUBLE DUCKS” embodies friendship and harmony. During the pandemic, we all learned spending time together is so valuable. The healing power I wish to bring to my audience is an escapism from the digital world that is filled with distraction. I believe art can open your eyes and spark up your soul. As such, “DOUBLE DUCKS” is not about looking into the past but enjoying the moment together!

 

 

To you, what are the necessary qualities for a piece of public art to succeed?

 

Communication and trust. I’ve traveled with the Rubber Duck to a lot of places around the world and have met many different people and encountered various situations. The rubber duck project is a challenging installation and weather is always the paramount challenge to cope with. Even so, I’ve read an array of creative comments and ideas online, I am truly amazed by the creativity of the Hong Kong people.

 

 

Imagine you weren’t the creator of the Rubber Duck series. How would you feel if you saw DOUBLE DUCKS for the first time at Tamar Park? What would you do to interact with it and make the most of the experience?

 

I value genuine relationships with people and nature. So I think I would switch off my electronic device and simply appreciate the duck with my family.