Monday, February 07, 2005

It's only February and the controversy is hot and heavy in public sculpture land- particularly in the area of former hated rulers.

First, from the Congo comes news that a statue of King Leopold II of Belgium that was torn down during Mobutu's reign was re-erected by the government in an attempt to represent all periods of the country's history, including its colonial era. It was supposed to have a plaque attached explaining the place of Belgium in the country's history and spur people's awareness so that it would never happen again. But enough was enough and the 3 ton equestrian piece was torn down in a day by the same workers who raised it in the first place. According to many sources the piece had languished in a garbage heap and it took several hours to chip away debris that had grown on it over the years.

Then, from the former Soviet Union comes howls of the victims who are protesting the erection of a sculpture of Stalin (albeit with Churchill and FDR) to celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany. the bronze is based on the picture of the three leaders at Yalta for the conference that lead to their alliance. One of the most interesting things to me is the fact that it was created by a mighty controversial sculptor himself- the creator of New Jersey's "Tear of Grief" to memorialize 9/11. The guy is a fave of the Russian government these days and specializes in monuments and they've paid him well- he rides around in a Rolls Royce talking on a gilt trimmed cell phone, by all accounts.

But I digress. Feelings run so high against the Stalin piece (or piece that includes Stalin)that Crimea's PM has warned of bloodshed if it should rise on that country's soil. The controversy rages as to how or weather to commemorate him at all. According to polls, 21% see him as a great wartime leader, 31% see him as a monster. It will be interesting to see what survives.
(Photo from the UK Telegraph site)
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