Just as Lunar New Year celebrations are beginning in Chinatown, controversy has erupted over a statue that was supposed to be unveiled in Chatham Square this week.
The Chinatown Partnership and Chinatown BID commissioned the Australian artists Gillie and Marc Schattner to create the, “Good Fortune Dog,” part of their “Travel Everywhere with Love” global sculpture project. But the “Dogman” installation was cancelled after Chinatown activists launched an online petition, arguing that the sculpture, to be placed in Kimlau Square, is culturally insensitive.
According to the petition, initiated by well-known local arts advocate Amy Chin, it would have been demeaning to place the statue, “under the Arch named for Lt. Benjamin R. Kimlau,” who died in World War II fighting for the United States. “This insulting image of a ‘Dog-Man’ has no place next to this sacred and solemn community site where we honor our community heroes.” Questions have also been raised about the process used to select the project for one of the neighborhood’s most visible public spaces.
Wellington Chen, head of the Partnership and BID, told The Lo-Down earlier this week that the unveiling was cancelled due to the controversy and his organizations are now paying to store the 900 pound statue. While efforts are being made to install the piece somewhere else, finding a new location has not been an easy task.
The installation was planned in collaboration with “Art in the Parks,” a program administered by the NYC Parks Department. Reps from the city agency appeared before Community Board 3’s parks committee last Thursday night, offering project details. A handout explained:
The Dogman sculpture will be holding a beautiful red apple. Since 3 is a lucky number during the Year of the Dog, the apple will feature 3 leaves. In Chinese, the word for an apple is ping, the homonym of which is peace. Especially in today’s day and age, the apple symbolizing peace holds particular significance, and will help spread the message of diversity and acceptance for all beings.