Chinese Goddess of Liberty Statue to Be Moved to City Hall

Times Staff Writer

The Board of Public Works agreed Monday to help relocate a 23-foot-high replica of the Goddess of Democracy to City Hall's Spring Street entrance for three months, moving it from its current perch on a Civic Center footbridge.

But officials and local artists said after the meeting they will also explore the idea of moving the statue--a copy of the one destroyed by Chinese troops in the recent Beijing massacre--to a more permanent home in Chinatown.

"The selection of a site is a subtle choice," said Bill Laserow, former president of the local chapter of Artists Equity Assn., a national visual artists service organization. "We're lacking the equivalent of a Tien An Men Square here. There's no obvious site."

The 1,500-pound wood and plastic foam monument, designed by artist Tom Van Sant, was hastily erected by association members last Monday atop a pedestrian bridge linking City Hall East and the north end of the downtown mall near the Los Angeles Children's Museum.

Safety Questions

The statue, which was installed without city permits, raised immediate safety questions with police and fire officials. But the Board of Public Works, at the urging of officials including Councilman Michael Woo, agreed to cut through red tape and gave permission for the statue to remain for a week.

At Monday's meeting, the public works board insisted that the statue be moved so that pedestrians could again use the bridge. But board members hastened to add that they would continue to cooperate by allowing the statue to be moved to an alternate location.

In a 5-0 vote, board members agreed to move the replica, and bolt it down for 90 days, on a landing of the Spring Street entrance to City Hall. The move, officials said, will take place next week after the return of Van Sant, who is in Washington this week to testify before a congressional committee on arts-related legislation.

"This is great," said Artists Equity Assn. board member Arte Gross, after the vote. "Our first choice was to have it on the bridge, but how can you object to having it on the steps of City Hall?"

After the meeting, public works board member Dennis Nishikawa, who was asked to supervise the move, said that he and Equity members also will explore the idea next week of moving the statue to Chinatown. Talks will be held this week with Chinatown community leaders to gauge support and locate possible sites, he said.

Laserow said that the makeshift statue could remain intact for up to 20 years if a fiberglass coating is applied. He also said that a fund-raising effort may be organized to raise $250,000 from government or private sources to create a permanent marble version of the monument.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World