Walking around City Hall Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park this month you might start seeing large pieces of copper that have a familiar look, but you can’t quite place them. That’s because they’re full-scale replica parts of the Statue of Liberty separated into pieces. We the People, an installation by artist Danh Vo, was crafted between 2010 and 2012 using the same copper and techniques as the original sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.
The replica was made piece by piece, molded over casts of the original statue and shipped to 15 places around the world after completion. Quoting the artist, “When I found that the Statue of Liberty was only the thickness of two pennies, I thought that was very intriguing,” he said. “Because you always think of this as, you know, a colossal thing, but in reality two millimeters is not that much.” Finally, thanks to the Public Art Fund, We the People is finally in the city that inspired its creation.
Artist Danh Vo was born in Ba Rja, Vietnam before he and his family fled the Communist forces after the fall of Saigon. At sea in a homemade boat, the family was picked up by a Danish shipping boat and returned to Denmark in 1975. Here is where the family decided to take residence. It is therefore unsurprising that much of Vo’s art expresses the fears, desires and realities of the culture of movement and alienation.
On exhibition until December 15th in City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Parks, visitors will be able to see the fragmented portions of various parts of the iconic Statue. Scaffolding and concrete are visible as one circles each piece and nearby plaques show what some of the more unrecognizable portions constitute from the original. When asked about this display method, Vo said he “wanted to do something that everyone had a relationship to, and make it a bit unfamiliar. It’s kind of like creating a Frankenstein that gets its own life.”
The pieces are rearranged in their locations, sometimes interlocking, sometimes strewn across their exhibition spaces. Both locations offer reflection on the impetus and message of the piece, with the original tower visible from the Brooklyn Bridge Park site while the City Hall Park location stands in the shadow of 1 World Trade Center amidst the bustle of Lower Manhattan. Both the dissolution and reverence to the original Statue of Liberty exemplify Danh Vo’s techniques and motifs and are thought-provoking both in their execution and relation to the original.
Check out our other fun coverage of the Statue of Liberty, from vintage photos of its construction, the many versions of the statue in both NYC and Paris, and digging into who the model for the face was (not who everyone thinks she is!)
The author can be reached via Twitter @jimipage26