In Brief

Feminists and WWII Museum Reach Armistice in Battle Over Controversial Statue

Seward Johnson's "Unconditional Surrender" being installed in Caen (photo courtesy Le Mémorial de Caen, via Facebook)
Seward Johnson’s “Unconditional Surrender” being installed in Caen (photo courtesy Le Mémorial de Caen, via Facebook)

A French feminist organization has scored a partial victory in its effort to have an allegedly sexist sculpture removed from the exterior of a World War II memorial and museum in Normandy. The Mémorial de Caen in Lower Normandy contains a sculpture by Seward Johnson (he of “Forever Marilyn” infamy) titled “Unconditional Surrender” featuring the central figures from “V-J Day in Times Square,” Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photograph of a nurse and a sailor kissing — an image that has elicited its share of feminist critiques.

Seward Johnson's sculpture outside the Caen World War II memorial (photo by @jamie6112/Instagram)
Seward Johnson’s “Unconditional Surrender” outside the Caen World War II memorial (photo by @jamie6112/Instagram) (click to enlarge)

The group Osez le Féminisme! (Dare Feminism!) collected 864 signatures on a petition calling for the work’s removal shortly after it was installed on September 23. “We cannot accept that the Caen Memorial erected a sexual assault as a symbol of peace,” a spokesperson for the group told the Daily Mail at the time. “We therefore request the removal of this sculpture as soon as possible.”

After meeting with members of the group, the Mémorial’s director, Stéphane Grimaldi, announced that rather than remove the sculpture entirely, a plaque would be installed alongside it outlining the feminists’ grievances, according to the Agence France-Presse. The group and the institution will also co-organize a one-day conference in March 2015 on the “place of women in historiography.”

The plaque outlining the group’s objections will be installed tomorrow, November 25. “Unconditional Surrender” is on long-term loan to the Mémorial, and is scheduled to remain in place through September 2015.

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