Danh Vo Cuts the Statue of Liberty Down to Size

The artist's Public Art Fund project renders the iconic colossus unfamiliar.


It’s been 25 years since the Statue of Liberty, brought to life in the climactic moments of Ghostbusters II, last set foot on the island of Manhattan, but Danh Vo is bringing the giant lady back to the city. For his Public Art Fund project “We The People,” Vo has installed almost 50 full-scale copper replicas of sections of the iconic sculpture at City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan and at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Brooklyn waterfront—from where Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s 150-foot-tall monument can be seen raising her torch across New York Harbor.

The pieces represent about one fifth of the artist’s ambitious project, begun in 2010, to recreate the entire, full-scale Statue of Liberty in 250 copper sections. The resulting objects, some of which have already begun to weather while others have that fresh-from-the-studio coppertone sheen, are all two millimeters thick, like the deceptively fragile statue itself. Some are recognizable, like sections of the crown and tablet, but the majority of Vo’s sculptures are virtually abstract segments of folded and billowing fabric.

“People are always thinking about something figurative, like the flame, or whatever is the so-called icon,” Vo told artnet News during a recent visit to the Brooklyn Bridge Park portion of the exhibition. “I never look at these kinds of things, I always love the armpit, because that carries everything—it’s what generates other things.”

Indeed, the largest chunk of Lady Liberty included in the exhibition is a multi-part section that includes her armpit and the drapery of the surrounding fabric. With the skyline of Lower Manhattan as a backdrop, it cuts an uncanny silhouette. It seems vaguely familiar and yet looks so radically out of context that it appears practically alien.

Or, as Vo puts it: “My aim was to take something familiar to so many people, and make it slightly unfamiliar.”

Danh Vo: We The People” is on view at City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park through December 5, 2014.

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