Artist Vinnie Bagwell’s proposal “Victory” will replace a removed J. Marion Sims statue in Central Park, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) announced today. The decision follows a heated debate on Saturday, October 5, when community groups from East Harlem protested a panel of judges’ vote in favor of artist Simone Leigh’s proposal. Leigh withdrew her proposal today in recognition of the community’s preference for Bagwell’s proposal.
Sims, a 19th-century gynecologist, conducted brutal experimental surgeries on enslaved Black women. Local activist groups protested against the monument for years before the city finally removed it in April of 2018. In February of 2019, four artists were selected to develop proposals for the new monument: Bagwell, Leigh, Wangechi Mutu, and Kehinde Wiley.
An uproar erupted after a panel of judges for the DCLA’s Percent for Art commission voted 4-3 in favor of Leigh’s proposal. Representatives of East Harlem groups claimed that their voices were not heard and complained against a vague decision process in choosing a replacement of the Sims monument, which was installed near 103rd street. Tom Finkelpearl, the commissioner of the DCLA, eventually announced the judges’ decision as just “advisory” to the city before closing the meeting.
“I greatly appreciate that my proposal was selected by the committee,” Leigh wrote in a statement that was circulated by the DCLA this afternoon. “However, I am aware that there is significant community sentiment for another proposal. Since this is a public monument in their neighborhood, I defer to them and have withdrawn my work.”
Following Leigh’s withdrawal, the city announced that Bagwell’s proposal has been officially selected to replace the Sims monument. The artist was the only finalist who appeared in front of the panel, and the public, to discuss her proposal.
“As a creative steward for our nation’s memory, I am so excited about balancing the narrative for enslaved Africans by creating ‘Victory…’ for the City of New York,” Bagwell wrote in a statement today. “I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the community-at-large for their collective advocacy of my work.”
“Now that this immediate situation has been resolved, the City should reevaluate how it selects public art,” said Todd Fine, president of the Washington Street Advocacy Group, in an email to Hyperallergic. “The Percent for Art process should not be a one-size-fits-all method; selection processes should be tailored to their specific circumstances.”
The DCLA announced that it will invite local residents to refine the design of Bagwell’s proposal as it moves through the City’s review and approval process. Installation is anticipated to take place in 2021.
“Community members and admirers of Vinnie Bagwell’s proposal will need to stay alert to ensure that her full vision can be realized, helping address the City’s logistical concerns and potentially seeking additional sources of funding,” Fine said.
If there is an object you have ever desired in your life, rest assured that someone in the advertising industry made money convincing you of exactly that.
Eva Hagberg’s new book sheds light on the relationship between critic and publicist Aline Louchheim and architect Eero Saarinen.
The award-winning Canadian artist explores notions of power through the imagery of science fiction in portraits, sculpture, and objects.
Custodians, groundskeepers, and movers at the Rhode Island School of Design are seeking wage improvement, healthcare benefits, and a retirement package.
Ceramic fried eggs, critiques of real estate, and a whole booth dedicated to female-identifying saints caught my eye at Untitled, NADA, and Art Miami.
This affordable, interdisciplinary program with excellent facilities and private studios offers in-person instruction for 2023.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office recovered 23 looted objects from Shelby White’s home over the last year and a half.
An egregious “anti-woke” billboard erected in Los Angeles attempts to sow division among Latino/a/x communities.
The latest episode of this documentary series on PBS explores the meaning of home through handmade objects, hand built homes, and the artists who create them.
This week, missed signs of previous life on Mars, the appeal of forged art, and why are blue whales singing in lower octaves?
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed forcefully posits multiple parallels between the world Nan Goldin grew up in and the one she fights in today.
Rhode Island School of Design opens registration for its residential summer Pre-College program and year-round online intensive Advanced Program Online.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including Bob Thompson, Aimee Goguen, Uta Barth, the Transcendental Painting Group, and more.
There is the singular artist and then there is the more exclusive club that has only one member. Harvey belongs to the latter.