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On Nov. 1, the day after the scheduled end of the Party Animals project, visitors to Terminal C at National Airport could still see the jetpack-strapped, wing-eared elephant Bush Pilot standing where it had been since spring. Fellow pachyderm Monumental Washington and donkey Spirit Bird Riding High also remained on site. More than 100 other donkeys and elephants still adorned the grounds of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel; some 60 remained at American University.
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Some of the holdovers had been sold in the live Party Animals auction Oct. 24 and were simply waiting for their new owners, who still had 10 days to haul them away. But others remained on the market. According to Party Animals project manager Alexandra J. MacMaster, the project’s Web site went into full shutdown on the evening of Oct. 30, the next-to-last day of the online auction, under the strain of heavy bidding. Once technicians restored service, around 5 a.m. the following day, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities decided to extend the Internet bidding until 2 p.m. on Nov. 4.
Even that day, though, won’t mark the end of the project. There is one animal that has yet to even reach D.C.: a donkey that was supposed to have been decorated by famed pop artist Larry Rivers. Rivers, 78, who died of liver cancer on Aug. 14 with his Party Animal still unfinished. Artists in his Southampton, N.Y., studio vowed to complete the work, MacMaster says, and the arts commission expected to receive it before the live auction. So far, it still hasn’t come. When the donkey finally does arrive, MacMaster says, the commission intends to put it on display before selling it.
Corcoran Gallery of Art director David Levy, a longtime Rivers colleague, says he hopes to show the donkey at the Corcoran. He’s not sure, however, what it’s going to look like. “I saw it in its early stages,” Levy says, “about a week before he died. But I was so caught up in the whole tragedy that I really didn’t pay it any attention. I can’t tell you what it looked like except a donkey.”—Chris Shott