For Immediate Release: October 8, 2019
ARTIST VINNIE BAGWELL WILL DESIGN “BEYOND SIMS” MONUMENT IN EAST HARLEM
Bagwell’s proposal, “Victory Beyond Sims,” will replace the J. Marion Sims statue that was removed in April 2018
New York – 18 months after a statue honoring Dr. J. Marion Sims was removed from its pedestal along the perimeter of Central Park in East Harlem, the City has announced that artist Vinnie Bagwell will design a new monument where Sim’s statue once stood. The artist’s preliminary proposal – titled “Victory” – depicts a winged figure and removes the stone pedestal on which Sims stood. The selection represents the culmination of a months-long process engaging local stakeholders in an intensive public dialogue about how to move beyond Sims’ legacy through commissioning a new work of permanent, public art that will endure in this community for generations.
The statue of J. Marion Sims was removed in April 2018 following years of community advocacy and the recommendations of the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers. The new commission, through a process driven by community stakeholders, is intended to reckon with the legacy of non-consensual medical experimentation on women of color broadly and Black women specifically that Sims symbolized.
Four artists were selected in February 2019 to develop proposals, which were presented at a public event at the Museum of the City of New York on October 5, 2019. A Percent for Art panel voted 4-3 in favor of artist Simone Leigh’s proposal; however, immediately following the commission’s decision, Leigh decided to withdraw in recognition of the community’s preference for Bagwell’s proposal.
“As a creative steward for our nation’s memory, I am so excited about balancing the narrative for enslaved Africans by creating ‘Victory…’ for the City of New York,” said Vinnie Bagwell. “Bryce Turner, FAIA, and I appreciate the opportunity to employ our work in a public place as an innovative method of historical preservation, education, and advancement of equity for the City of New York, and I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the community-at-large for their collective advocacy of my work.”
“I greatly appreciate that my proposal was selected by the committee. However, I am aware that there is significant community sentiment for another proposal,” states Simone Leigh. ”Since this is a public monument in their neighborhood, I defer to them and have withdrawn my work.”
Now, the City will work with Bagwell in collaboration with local residents to refine the design as it moves through the City’s review and approval process. Installation is anticipated to take place in 2021.
About Percent for Art
Since 1982, New York City's Percent for Art law has required that one percent of the budget for eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on public artwork. Managed by the City's Department of Cultural Affairs, the Percent for Art program has commissioned hundreds of site-specific projects in a variety of media-painting, new technologies, lighting, mosaic, glass, textiles, sculpture, and works that are integrated into infrastructure and architecture-by artists whose sensibilities reflect the diversity of New York City. Learn more at www.nyc.gov/percent.