About the Exhibition
We The People (2010-2014) is a 1:1 replica of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, recreated by artist Danh Vo (b. 1975) in about 250 individual pieces. Vo’s segmented version is faithful to the original, using the same fabrication techniques and copper material. However, he never intends to assemble all of the pieces of the statue. Instead We The People invites us to experience this world famous icon on a human scale, and to reflect on the meaning of liberty from multiple perspectives.
We The People brings together a constellation of historical and cultural references that frame Vo’s process, calling attention to the similarities and differences between the means of production in the 19th century and today’s global economic system. While the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States, paid for (in part) by American citizens, and constructed by French laborers, Vo’s We The People was conceived in Germany, fabricated in Shanghai, supported by his French gallery, collections and art institutions worldwide, and dispersed to exhibition venues in more than 15 countries.
This exhibition at City Hall Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park presents nearly a fifth of Vo’s project in two distinct installations. The presentation at City Hall Park, dispersed in small groupings among Victorian-style lawns and trees, gathers a selection of pieces that range from the figurative to the abstract, and from the ornate to the minimal. Inside the lobby of City Hall, visitors will encounter the ear of the statue placed beneath the cornerstone of the historic building, and links of the chain found at the feet of the statue scattered beneath the rotunda staircase of the entrance. Interested in City Hall Park’s colonial aesthetic, Vo also designed a new flower garden for a large planter at the southern entrance of the park. The garden is comprised of flowers and plants that were catalogued by 19th century French missionaries in Southern Asia and later imported to Europe and North America. Like We The People, Vo’s garden addresses themes of cultural interchange and the residue of colonialism today.
The presentation at Brooklyn Bridge Park features three colossal sculptures that have been assembled from 13 individual pieces of the statue. Together these pieces comprise large sections of the draped sleeve of the Statue of Liberty’s raised right arm. Sited on the central stone terrace of the Pier 3 Uplands, with the original Lady Liberty visible on the horizon, the installation recalls the ruins of antiquity in a contemporary context.
The title for this work – and the exhibition – borrows the first three words of the preamble to the United States Constitution, underscoring our collective role in shaping democracy. Accordingly, each sculpture in We The People is part of a conceptual whole, conjuring the full form of Lady Liberty in our mind’s eye. A poetic gesture as much as a sculptural feat, Vo’s multipart copy of the Statue of Liberty is a metaphor for the circulation of cultural values. Like a monumentally-scaled puzzle, these forms ask us to reconsider liberty as it exists globally and locally.
This exhibition is curated by Andria Hickey