Cow parade is the largest international public art event. This concept is believed to have been adopted from Zurich, Switzerland when lions were painted and displayed throughout the city as a symbol for Zurich. The exhibition in Zurich in 1998 was called LIONS OF SICHT.
The idea was adopted in the United States in 1999 when Peter Hanig; a Chicago businessman alongside Lois Weisberg, Commissioner of Cultural held an event Chicago. This event has been organized in 79 cities worldwide since 1999 including Chicago, Tokyo, New York City, Brussels and London. The flame-retardant fiberglass sculpt of cows are usually painted by local artist both professionals, amateurs, unknown and famous. Artist, art enthusiasts, architects, craftsmen, sculptures, creatives and designers are informed about the event by way of an open call either by mailing famous artists/designers or through television and newspaper advertisement.
These painted cows are dispersed all over the city especially in public places like parks and train station. The number of cows displayed during the event has varied from 32 in Auckland to 450 in New York. Cow parade has also been a medium to fund raise for non-profit organizations and over 20 million dollars has been raised globally. The cows are auctioned after the display which could last for months and often times, the cows are vandalized which would require repair before the auction.
Wage Moo; a cow from cow parade Dublin 2003, is the highest selling cow in an auction selling for $146,000. She is a mosaic made from pieces of Waterford crystals designed by John Rocha. The event can be sponsored by companies and individuals from the host city. Some cow owners/purchaser include; Oprah Winfrey, Vaclav Havel. Ringo Starr, Elton John, David James, Princess Firyal of Jordan.
Some artists who have created cows includes; Patrick Hughes, Red Grooms, Patricia Nix, Oliviero Toscani, Peter Max. Some designers who have created includes; Michael Graves (Designer, New York), Kate Spade (Fashion Designer, Kansas City), Matthew Williamson (Fashion Designer, London), John Rocha (Designer, Dublin), Christian Lacroix (Fashion Designer, Paris) and several others.