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Dead Horse Rides Again at New Public Exhibit in Times Square

By Alan Neuhauser | July 25, 2013 12:37pm
 A "Rearing Horse With Rider," the latest and largest addition to the Body Worlds Exhibit at Discovery Times Square, debuted on Broadway Wednesday, July 24, 2013.
'Rearing Horse With Rider' Debuts in Times Square
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TIMES SQUARE — A horse of another sort has joined the mounted cops on Broadway.

A 12-foot-tall, muscle-and-bone equine corpse, straddled by a similarly skinless rider, was unveiled in Times Square Wednesday, in celebration of "Body Worlds: Pulse" becoming a permanent exhibit at Discovery Times Square.

Titled "Rearing Horse With Rider," the work is the latest and largest addition to "Body Worlds" and is among the exhibit's most famous specimens.

The piece took husband-and-wife team Gunther von Hagens and Angelina Whalley three years to complete, with Wednesday marking the first time it has been shown in public for free.

"We insert a lot of strings to pull things into place, like a Muppet, to make it beautiful," said Whalley, waving her arms to demonstrate. "We had to have this huge chamber, a vacuum-chamber big enough to hold the whole thing to render the specimen dry and odorless."

The couple preserved the horse and rider through a process they developed called "plastination," which both reveals and preserves bodies' inner anatomy. Inspired by an unfinished sculpture of a horse by Leonardo da Vinci, the installation was the couple's first "mega-plastinate," and it is slated to join 200 others at the permanent Discovery exhibit, which includes 22 full bodies.

"Horses are very tame and good-natured animals, and to pay tribute to this long relationship, it's a huge monument to that," von Hagens said.

Von Hagens, diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, had sought a permanent location for "Body Worlds," which was previously a traveling exhibit. Being able to do so in Times Square, he said, "crystallizes my career."

As Whalley explained, "It was always important to Gunther to democratize anatomy, which was hidden away in universities."

And in true Times Square fashion, hundreds of passersby streamed by the exhibit to gawk and inspect it Wednesday. 

"Gross, ew — is that a brain?" asked 9-year-old Eliana Levin, visiting New York City from Israel.

Her brother, Yair, laughed.

"It's pretty cool," the 17-year-old said. "It's real."

Ron DeSerranno, 46, visiting from Marco Island, Fla., was similarly impressed.

"You don't really think too much on a day-to-day basis what your insides look like. It sort of reminds you of your own mortality," he said. "For people who don't know too much about art, it's art that makes you think about something. It certainly gets your attention."