CowParade comes to Shanghai

  • [Wednesday] 29th Oct,2014
  • in ericlin
  • View 864

Shanghai is being gradually taken over by life-size, brightly-coloured cows.Time Out asked their leader, the founder of CowParade, Jerry Elbaum, whether they come in peace. 

We've noticed lots of colourful plastic cows around Shanghai. Can you tell us what they are and where they came from?

The cows are life size dairy cows modeled on the Swiss Brown dairy cow breed. They come in three positions - head up, head down and reclining - and, for Shanghai, are being manufactured in China. They are made of fibreglass with steel reinforcement and weigh 100 pounds. Each represents a three dimensional canvas for an artist.

The idea of using an animal, such as a cow, as a canvas, originated in Zurich, Switzerland, where in 1998 I came across the first ever public art exhibit using the cow canvas. I thought that the concept would work well in the United States. My company, CowParade Holdings, was organised in 1999;  the same year that we were involved with the production of the first event in the US, Cows on Parade in Chicago. An estimated five million people came to see the exhibit, which ran for four months. Oprah Winfrey had a few of the cows on her show.

Why did you decide to go for cows? 
The reasons for using the cow as the exclusive canvas for all of our exhibits are various. The cow is a universal animal known to virtually all cultures. Artists all over the world can relate to the animal. Cows do good things for us, and they have quirky and friendly personalities. One of the first words children often learn is 'moo'. The words 'cow' (vaca in Spanish) and 'moo' oftentimes are used by artists to create fun names for their cows. Great puns. Importantly, the dimensions and features of the cow canvases - udder, ears and eyes - make for interesting challenges for the artists.

How long will the cows be with us in Shanghai? 

The official opening of CowParade Shanghai will be in mid-November. Cows will be added to the exhibit daily until the event concludes in summer 2015, to be followed by the live auction gala for the benefit of Chinese charities. CowParade Shanghai is expected to be the largest CowParade exhibit ever with 500 plus cows.

Lots of people seem to enjoy climbing on the cows here. Does that bother you?

We expect children to climb all over the cows, which are protected by a durable lacquer. Watching the children react to the cows is a really fun feature of the event, although we ask their parents to make sure that they do not do harm to the art.


Have any ever been stolen?

Oftentimes a cow is stolen in an event and becomes the subject of a city-wide 'cow-hunt' followed closely by the media.

And finally, where are they now and off to next?

At the moment 50 cows are located in Lujiazui Riverside (In front of Starbucks), Lujiazui Central Greenland, Shanghai Concert Hall, at the east end of Waibaidu Bridge (Garden Bridge), Suzhou Nan Lu, People’s Park, Xujiahui Central Greenland and The Bund. More information can be found on our website. We currently are working on future CowParade events in California, Columbia, Brazil, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico.

In excess of $30m (183m RMB) has already been raised for non-profit organisations through the 79 completed CowParade exhibits to date. Find out more at