Saying that the “Unconditional Surrender” sculpture on the bayfront does not meet the standards of public art, the Public Art Committee rejected a request from a anonymous donor to purchase the $500,000 piece and donate it to the city.
The couple dozen veterans and supporters who were in attendance at the Aug. 12 meeting were not pleased with that decision.
“They voted to suit their own personal views of art,” said Dr. Rich Swier, president of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission. “They just blew off the people of Sarasota.”
The 88-year-old World War II veteran who wanted to buy “Unconditional Surrender” had one condition — that it stay on the bayfront.
And that was the sticking point with the committee members and a few opponents who spoke at the meeting.
Kathy Benz said the only reason sculptures on the bayfront are tolerated is because they are there temporarily.
“(The bayfront) must not turn into a carnival freak show,” said Benz, who called “Unconditional Surrender” “a computer-generated knockoff,” “a fraud” and “a grotesque joke.”
But the majority of the speakers supported keeping the statue where it is, including Florida Sen. Mike Bennett, a Vietnam veteran, who became emotional when addressing the committee.
“That’s why I came home (from Vietnam),” said Bennett, choking up. “A kiss from my wife.”
Bennett presented a petition with 4,000 signatures of people who support keeping the statue on the bayfront.
Committee members accepted the petition, but gave a laundry list of reasons why they opposed accepting the donation, including: existing corrosion on the sculpture; the lack of a solid foundation; the existence of a tropical depression in the Atlantic, which Chairwoman Virginia Hoffman called a “hurricane” and said could come this way; and the opinion that it’s an “unauthorized reproduction” of a well-known photograph.
Swier said the corrosion is the donor’s concern and that the donor would address that before agreeing to pay $500,000. He said the city placed the statue on its current foundation and that could be easily remedied.
Season of Sculpture Executive Director Brenda Terris said she received a legal opinion that there would be no risk of copyright infringement.
Said Bennett: “I heard people say it was a copy of someone else’s work. I think the city of Sarasota is responsible for copying someone else’s work — the statue of David.”
Michelangelo’s David is on the city’s official logo.
“They were grasping at straws,” said Swier. “They were looking for a reason to turn this down.”
One reason Hoffman did not cite was her disdain for “Unconditional Surrender.” She has publicly called it “worse than kitsch.”
When the donor originally proposed buying the sculpture, he demanded it stay on the bayfront permanently, but his representatives told the Art Committee that he has loosened that requirement and only asks that it remain there for 10 years. After 10 years, ownership would transfer to the city, and city officials could then move it anywhere they wanted.
The donor is a widower and has no family. He had been searching for a way to leave a legacy.
With the Art Committee’s rejection, that legacy now rests in the hands of the City Commission, which will have the final say on whether to accept his donation.
Contact Robin Roy at email@example.com.
Currently 10 Responses
- The art committee and people all over the usa in those committees are people who bought "the emperor's clothes" over and over again for years on end and will continue to do so thoroughout history.
To put up a circle of rusted junk cars for months on end and to cause people to look in disgust at something that was clearly a wonderful sculpture with a hidden meaning to a member of the art committee and only if you could see "the emperor's clothes" would you be able to understand the beauty and wonder of that cirlce of junk!! So we will leave it up there because we feel you need it and to see the hidden meaning!!
A member also stated that she saw the art as a vile act to that woman who clearly did not want to be kissed and you could see it in her hand that was pushing him away and the other hand was a fist. She projected her own psychological feelings into that art piece and smeared it with vile acts towards women!!
These are the people that are judging the right of the statue to stay there??? I see people every day in any weather taking pictures of the art and themselves with it in the background because it represents the fact that when modern free civilization was in peril of being wiped from the earth, that it was the fighting men and the tremendous support of the women in and out of uniform that lead to the defeat of that threat and that we prevailed as a nation and an ideal that we are free and we won!!!!
Perhaps if the media was embedded with us during ww2 that we might have lost the war or that it would have been a far different world today for sure.
- It gets discouraging living and working in an area where a minority totally disreguard the masses. The statue brought a lot of people to the bayfront (I thought that was the idea) , was a source of memories, smiles and a topic of conversation. The only thing it didn't do is fit into the SRQ box.
- It is amusing that the art committee is considered the elitists when Sarasota has always been run by those with the checkbook, just like the statue supporters! There is no proof the public is in support of this, the "petition" is bogus as it has no way to ensure registered Sarasota voters and it has no opposing petition to compare it to! It is silly to think it means anything. Did you know the statue is made in China? Did you know Time, Inc. is pursuing legal recourse since it violates copyright? Did you know that other cities have this exact statue? That alone is an embarrassment to Sarasota. Did you know that Time, Inc offered a $5000 license to the city to have a local artist create a 3D sculpture of the SAME IMAGE?!? So if the "majority" wants this still, they are essentially saying, they'd rather give $500K to a bunch of Chinese workers, led by a billionaire artist (Seward Johnson) that is an unauthorized copy of a classic photo than to create a proper bronze or stone statue that is more befitting of our Troops, created by a local artist who will in turn spend that money locally? It's like the Music Man all over again. Sarasota is River City and you all are being duped. (Source on China production: Nantucket Independent, August 27, 2008 interview with the artist)
- I love the "Unconditional Surrander", however, I DO NOT THINK IT SHOULD BE PERMANENT ON OUR BAY FRONT. PLEASE, DO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN. IT IS A DISTRACTION.
- I am not particularly for or against the statue, but compared to the junk cars and other displays of random pieces of scrap metal that decorate the bayfront, the statue is a big improvement. It is pretty clear that the Arts Committee does not represent the will of the vast majority of the local citizenry. Looks like time for a new Arts Committee that is not so hostile to the preferences of the community.
- I love the statue, but I don't believe it belongs there. Perhaps further down the Bayfront or in the park, close to the water.
- What a shame. I drive by the statue often and there is frequently a gathering of people around it, talking about it, taking pictures, etc.
I think the issue is that the 'Art' Committee are a bunch of snobs who are upset that a realistic, non-abstract sculpture is drawing more praise and attention than the usual pretentious 'art' that is on display along the waterfront. Admittedly, some of it is interesting, but most of it is nothing special in my opinion.
“Unconditional Surrender” is a tribute to our war veterans, and deserves a special amount of respect and reverance.
Leave the statue up Sarasota. It's the right thing to do.
- Can't have anything that patriotic in the public eye huh?
- Shame on the High Society that seem to override the population with some of the trash they exhibit down there. Hopefully the City Commission listens to the public and not a bunch of snobs that compose the Art (if you can call it that) Committee.
- Sad news. I would hope the City Commission would override this decision and show that they represent the people and not the elitist critics that obviously make up the Art Committee.
Was it a coincidence that this vote was taken in the summer when the seasonal residents are absent. I would guess that most of us would want the sculpture to stay.
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