The life cast of the Bat-Signal is a valuable artifact because it captures the exact moment a crime is committed against one of the most recognizable symbols of Batman – the bat. This particular piece is attributed to sculptor Adolph Gottschalk and was made just one year after the premiere of the very first Batman television series. Since then it has traveled the world with the actor who portrayed the Caped Crusader – George Clooney – and has been featured in a number of exhibits and auctions celebrating the work of this renowned artist. Below we’re going to tell you more about the fascinating history of this famous piece of artwork.

The Original Sketch

The life cast of Bat-Signal was originally a sketch for a different sculpture which Gottschalk was working on at the time. The original piece was to be made in the likeness of actor Peter Graves – who played Chief Bromfield in the original Batman television series. As Graves’ health declined towards the end of his life, the need to make the piece became more pressing, and so it was decided to make the switch after getting permission from the actor’s family. After being inspired by a sketch of Batman in a radio show, Gottschalk set out to create the first life cast of the Caped Crusader. In a 1989 interview with Newsday, the artist said the following about why he chose to sculpt George Clooney rather than any other actor who portrayed Batman over the years:

“He happened to be the first. I thought it would be fun to do a life cast of the Batman,” said Gottschalk. “I could do a whole series of them, but it was meant to be a one-and-done kind of deal. He felt like a real person to me. He wasn’t just a symbol.”

The Making Of The Life Cast

A year after the premiere of the original Batman television series, in 1966, Adolph Gottschalk was inspired by a character called Dr. Hugo Strange who would become a key figure in future Batman television series. As the story goes, Strange fell in love with a circus performer named Irma – who was later revealed to be an undercover KGB agent. One night while on a stakeout, Strange spotted Irma at the window of a house across the street waiting for him to leave. So he stayed and watched her do the same thing every night at the same time for about an hour before leaving. From there, the idea of a life cast of the Bat-Signal was born.

The process of making the life cast was very detailed and took a lot of time. Gottschalk would visit the chiropractor whom he credited with helping him overcome a back problem which prevented him from sleeping for several nights. The artist would then spend another couple of nights at the chiropractor’s office just to be sure all his movements were captured accurately. Finally, the artist would wait for another two weeks before having the piece waxed and polished so that it was ready to be immersed in a mixture of wax and butyl-lubricant to make it durable for the upcoming exhibit. During this final stage of the process, the wax would have to be melted down two or three times so that the sculptor could make necessary adjustments. In total, it took nine months to make the life cast of the Bat-Signal. As we mentioned above, this particular artwork was created to show off the actor who played Batman – George Clooney. When it was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 2014, the piece was accompanied by a letter from Clooney’s wife, Laura, who thanked the museum for including his “favorite piece” in their collection. After the piece sold at auction for a whopping $96,000 in November of that year, she wrote the following in a thank-you note to the seller:

“We are so grateful to have been able to share George’s wonder and joy at seeing his favorite piece – the life cast of the Bat-signal – come to life in front of his eyes.”

Exhibits And Auctions

This amazing piece of art has been featured in a number of exhibits and auctions over the years. In 1966, the year it was created, Gottschalk exhibited the life cast of the Bat-Signal at the New York World’s Fair. It also appeared in a major retrospective of the artist’s work which was on display at the Brooklyn Museum from 2009 to 2014. In 2013, this piece was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair alongside other notable works by the artist and was again on display at the Brooklyn Museum for their annual show Gotham, which features works by famous artists inspired by the Batman films. In 2014, the life cast of the Bat-Signal was included in a major retrospective of Gottschalk’s work at the Brooklyn Museum. Since then it has been on display at major art galleries around the world. But perhaps the most interesting exhibit that the piece has been a part of was the Sotheby’s auction in New York City in November 2014. At this event, a bidding war broke out between two phone bidders as the bidding went up to $96,000. The eventual winning bid was at this level because this particular piece was made out of a very rare and expensive resin which is only available in limited quantities from one supplier in Thailand.

Since then, the piece has been featured in a number of auctions and sales, the most interesting of which have been in New York City. On November 10, 2014, Sotheby’s auctioned this piece along with 17 other artworks. In addition to the aforementioned $96,000, this particular lot brought in another $62,000. On January 27, 2015, Sotheby’s held a similar auction where three pieces of Gottschalk’s work – including this one – were up for sale. This time around, there was not one but two phone bidders going at it as each wanted to secure this piece for their collection. The two-day event brought in a massive total of $147,000 with all three pieces selling for over their respective estimates. Interestingly enough, the final sales price of this particular piece was $49,000, which is almost half of what it sold for at Sotheby’s in 2014.

The Future Of The Life Cast

This amazing piece of art will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum throughout the summer of 2018. As we mentioned above, in November 2014, it was estimated that this piece would sell for $250,000 to $500,000. While we were fortunate enough to live in an era where incredible pieces of art like this one could still be made, this is certainly not the case today. Even the most prestigious museums and auction houses don’t have the time or budget to spend on pieces like this anymore. This is mainly because computer-aided design and 3D printing have enabled sculptors to digitally recreate famous pieces of art, which are then printed out in plastic or ceramic. With digital files of all the major works, it is now possible to produce exact replicas of famous sculptures which were never before made. In some cases, these files can even be sent directly to a 3D printer which can then produce a completely finished piece (albeit one which is not as beautiful as the original).

Of course, the ultimate goal of these pieces is solely to show off the talent and genius of the artists who created them, which is more than evident in the above cases where these files were made available to the public for printing. Ultimately, it is the unique story of these individual pieces that make them so special and the fact that they were created during a time when they were difficult and time-consuming to make means that they will always have value.