our kids will be thrilled to meet the newest addition to Hudson Yards. On Aug. 24, the world’s largest gorilla sculpture—King Nyani, which is Swahili for gorilla—will arrive in Bella Abzug Park. The enormous bronze lounging gorilla will delight kids with its sweet face and gentle posture. Plus, the friendly sculpture is so big that two to three kids can climb right into the gorilla’s giant hand.
The artists, Gillie and Mark Chattner, whom the New York Times called “the most successful and prolific creators of public art in New York’s History,” created the enormous sculpture in order to raise awareness of the critically endangered gorilla species. The piece is modeled after a real-life silverback mountain gorilla whom the artists met in Uganda—and whom they watched defy the familiar stereotype of an aggressive predator and instead emit empathy and kindness toward his family.
“We knew we had to let the world know about this loving and gentle side of gorillas,” Gillie says. “They are often so misunderstood and thought of as scary and dangerous animals.” She says that she knows that if people were able to really see the silverback, they wouldn’t be so scared.
Gorillas, as the amiable King Nyani attests, share many of the same behaviors as humans. And yet humans are the reason there are only about 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the wild and fewer than 3,800 eastern lowland gorillas. Illegal poaching, war, and deforestation are making it impossible for the species to survive.
After spending many years traveling the world, Gillie and Mark have become passionate eco-warriors. Their work—including sculpture, jewelry, prints, painting and books—is focused on the plight of endangered animals.
Two years ago they brought another giant animal installation to New York: a 17-foot-tall sculpture of three rhinos, the tallest bronze rhino sculpture in the world. It features the last three Northern White Rhinos, which have sadly now become two, and stood in both Manhattan and Brooklyn as a protest against the sale of rhino horns.
“We aim to inspire everyone to be more loving and conscious of their surroundings and the life it contains,” Gillie said on her and Mark's website. “We aim to create a community that passionately works for change and optimism today so we can all live in a much better world tomorrow.”
Through a partnership with the Hudson Yards-Hell’s Kitchen Alliance, King Nyani will remain on view for 11 months, reminding everyone who sees it that gorillas are not King Kong, and we should do everything we can to save them from extinction. For example, the artists are asking that visitors take a photo with the sculpture and post it on social media with the hashtag #LoveTheLast, which is the artist's mission to use their work as a platform to spread awareness about endangerment. They hope the piece will encourage onlookers to make a donation to the World Wildlife Foundation or other wildlife protective agencies.
Main image Courtesy Gillie and Mark Chattner via their website, lovethelast.com