Art
Artist Erwin Wurm Is Giving out 50,000 Free Hot Dogs from a Beefy Bus
Installation view of Erwin Wurm, Hot Dog Bus, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, 2018. Photo by Liz Ligon. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY.

Installation view of Erwin Wurm, Hot Dog Bus, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, 2018. Photo by Liz Ligon. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY.

The bus has really let itself go. Its mustard-yellow exterior spills out over its wheels, the folds bulging. A familiar Volkswagen logo on the vehicle’s nose points to its provenance, but without that, the automobile would be mostly unrecognizable. Consider it an out-of-shape cousin to the comparatively lithe Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.
This portly van is the brainchild of Austrian artist , who—with the help of New York’s Public Art Fund—is using it to deliver some 50,000 free, all-beef hot dogs in Brooklyn Bridge Park this summer. Simply titled Hot Dog Bus, the utilitarian sculpture was made by applying a mixture of Styrofoam, putty, urethane, and paint over the body of a Volkswagen T2b Microbus. It builds upon the spirit of earlier pieces by Wurm, such as the self-explanatory Convertible Fat Car (Porsche) (2005) and Fat House (2003).
Wurm, who is fairly slim himself, has long been fascinated with weight. “We are the first sculptures we’re dealing with,” he explained, referring to how our own bodies can be seen as ever-transforming works of art. “We’re all gaining or losing weight.” His thoughts on mass are somewhat akin to those of , who has long maintained that his interest in large individuals has more to do with formal qualities than anything else. (The Colombian artist has said that he’s not painting fatness, but rather “volume.”)
It does seem a little sinister to hand out free hot dogs using an obese bus, but Wurm’s intents are more nuanced than they might seem. He considers the sausage to be a “European food icon,” he said, and finds an interesting triangulation between how the product differs between the United States, Austria, and Germany. Sausages are such a part of Austrian identity, Wurm noted, that the famous drag queen who won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the country chose an evocative name: Conchita Wurst.
Hot Dog Bus is also a continuation of Wurm’s long-time fascination with sausages in general; he has made a series of sculptures in which surprisingly life-like weiners embrace, dance, and gesticulate. Yes, he admitted, part of the appeal is their obvious phallic implications (it’s why, he added, he’s also a fan of depicting pickles).  
Installation view of Erwin Wurm, Hot Dog Bus, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, 2018. Photo by Liz Ligon. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY.

Installation view of Erwin Wurm, Hot Dog Bus, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, 2018. Photo by Liz Ligon. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY.

I asked Wurm if there’s an equivalent German expression to our own “see how the sausage gets made,” and if it was perhaps on his mind while creating Hot Dog Bus. He said he’s not familiar with the phrase, but shared other ways in which sausages have infiltrated his native tongue. “We have the expression, ‘I don’t care—it’s a sausage to me,’” he says, casually translating. “The other is, if someone’s really not a nice guy…a stupid guy: ‘He is a sausage.’”
The artist probably won’t be lining up at Hot Dog Bus in Brooklyn this summer to gorge himself. “I try to keep it really healthy,” he admitted. “But from time to time I get these flashbacks: I have to eat a sausage and drink a Coke. I can’t help it. I’m sorry.”
Scott Indrisek is Artsy’s Deputy Editor.