A living statue is a street artist who poses as a statue or mannequin, usually with realistic statue-like makeup, sometimes for hours at a time. Living statue performers can fool passersby, and a number of hidden camera shows on television have used living statues to startle people.
The tableau vivant, or group of living statues, was a regular feature of medieval and Renaissance festivities and pageantry, such as royal entries by rulers into cities. Typically a group enacting a scene would be mounted on an elaborate stand decorated to look like a monument, placed on the route of the procession. A living statue appeared in a scene of the 1945 French masterpiece film Les enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise), and early living statue pioneers include the London-based artists Gilbert and George in the 1960s. In the early years of the 20th century, the German dancer Olga Desmond put on “Evenings of Beauty” (Schönheitsabende) in which she posed nude in imitation of classical works of art ('living pictures').
Performing as a living statue is a prevalent form of busking, especially in places with a high level of tourism. A living statue performer will strategically choose a spot, preferably one with a high level of foot traffic, and out of the way. The performer creates the illusion of complete stillness while standing. Sometimes, passers-by do not realize the performer is a real person, which often causes surprise when the 'statue' gives them a small gesture (such as a wink or nod). A busker's objective is to create moments of interaction that result in a tip. The amount of money a performer makes day to day depends on his or her ability to effectively interact with the crowd.