The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has decided to remove from the World Trade Center plaza an exhibit of public art that aroused indignation among right wing pundits because it included an image of the flag of Saudi Arabia.
The exhibit, entitled “Candy Nations,” was created by French sculptor Laurence Jenkell. It consists of 20 polyester resin simulacra in the shape of wrapped pieces of candy — each nine feet tall and weighing approximately 1,450 pounds. But the label around each piece, instead of bearing a brand name, is emblazoned with the flag of one member of the Group of 20 — a score of nations that meet annually to promote global economic stability.
For the 2011 summit of the Group of 20 (also known as the G20), held in Cannes, France, Ms. Jenkell (who is known for whimsically beautiful pieces that evoke candy, butterflies, and DNA, among other inspirations) was commissioned to produce a series of sculptures — one honoring each member nation. Her work was well received and in the years since, the set has been exhibited in 25 nations the globe, most recently in Midtown Manhattan, where the Garment District Alliance brought Candy Nations to the Broadway pedestrian plaza (stretching from 36th to 39th Streets) for its seasonal art installation, beginning last October.
When that exhibit ended, Ms. Jenkell was invited by the Port Authority to bring Candy Nations to the outdoor plaza of the World Trade Center complex, for the months of January and February. The agency described this initiative as part of its, “continuing efforts to transform the World Trade Center site into a dynamic space in Lower Manhattan.” The Port Authority’s executive director, Rick Cotton, added that, “this special art exhibit continues our ongoing efforts to provide a strong bond between the World Trade Center campus and the Lower Manhattan community, and advance our mission of making this campus a dynamic hub for creative, cultural and community activities.”
But one of the member nations of the G20 is Saudi Arabia. Although this fact had never inspired controversy in any of the dozens of other sites where Candy Nations has been exhibited in the last eight years, a predictable furor erupted last week, when conservative websites discovered that the flag of the Muslim nation was being displayed at the site of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
In the face of this backlash, the Port Authority beat a hasty retreat, announcing on Monday that the exhibit would be removed from the World Trade Center site more than a month earlier than originally scheduled, with its 20 pieces moved to various locations around Kennedy Airport.
A spokesman for Ms. Jenkell did not respond to a request for comment.
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