The last time France saw the Statue of Liberty, the copper sculpture was in pieces, being shipped to New York for permanent installation. But this summer in Paris, Vietnamese artist Danh Vo has installed his recreation of the iconic monument in 30 copper fragments, each an exact replica of the original — right down to her open book.
Vo’s installation is called We the People, and it’s currently ensconced in Paris’ Musée d’Art Moderne. Each piece was hand-fabricated by Vo and his team over the past five years, using copper that’s about as thick as two pennies. It’s easy to pick out which details are which — for example, the folds of her toga-esque dress, or the curve of her nose.
As awesome as it is to see what Lady Liberty looked like before she acquired a thick layer of green patina, there’s also a deeper meaning to the piece. Vo, you see, fled Vietnam with his family as a child — adrift at sea, the group was rescued by a Danish ship and eventually found refuge in Europe. For him, the Statue of We the People functions as a meditation on freedom and placelessness, as one curator explains:
The objective of Vo’s project, however, is not to erect another statue in its totality but to reconstruct its individual elements and allow them to be dispersed to various museums and art venues across the globe. The scattered fragments remain connected to this universal symbol but emphasise the abstract nature of the concept of freedom.
There’s actually some interesting historical accuracy to We the People. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the original sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, went through hell to raise the funds to finish her construction, and for years it seemed she’d remain in pieces.
In fact, the first time most Americans saw Lady Liberty, she was just a torch-wielding copper arm on display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 (as a bid to raise funds). So in a way, visitors to Vo’s show get to see her in her earliest incarnation. Check it out until August 18th if you’re near Paris. [DesignBoom]
Lead image via Kunsthalle Fridericianum and Contemporary Art Daily.