Box covering Columbus statue in Philadelphia must be removed, court rules

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, May 25, 2024

Box covering Columbus statue in Philadelphia must be removed, court rules
Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo.

by Eduardo Medina

NEW YORK, NY.- A Pennsylvania court ruled on Friday that the city of Philadelphia must remove the plywood box covering a statue of Christopher Columbus that, in recent years, has been a source of contentious debate over colonialism and heritage.

The 146-year-old marble statue — among the first in the U.S. dedicated to the Italian explorer who sailed to the Americas on behalf of Spain more than 500 years ago — has been particularly divisive in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which prompted protests against racial injustice and renewed conversations about polarizing landmarks.

On Friday, a panel of judges in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed a 2021 decision that had permitted the city to keep its box around the statue, effectively ending officials’ attempt to hide what it considered to be a problematic object.

Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, who issued the ruling, wrote that the city’s objection to the “message” of the statue was “somewhat opaque” and that if officials wanted to change that, they could do so with a plaque.

She added that the city had accepted the statue as a donation in 1876, during the country’s centennial, meaning that it had a responsibility to preserve the Columbus figure, which was designated a historic object in 2017.

“The Columbus statue,” Leavitt wrote, “is not city property as is, for example, a city snowblower.”

Kevin Lessard, a spokesperson for the city’s mayor, Jim Kenney, who had sought to remove the statue from Marconi Plaza in 2020 after racial-justice protests, said in a statement that “we are very disappointed in the court’s ruling,” although he said that the city would abide by it.

“We continue to believe that the Christopher Columbus statue, which has been a source of controversy in Philadelphia, should be removed from its current position at Marconi Plaza,” Lessard said. “We are continuing to review the court’s latest ruling and are working to comply with the court’s orders, including unboxing.”

The group that sought to preserve the statue and sued the city to unbox it, Friends of Marconi Plaza, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday night. But a lawyer representing the group, George Bochetto, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he was “delighted” with the court’s decision.

The legal back-and-forth surrounding the 10-foot-tall statue came at a time when other statues are being taken down in American cities including Boston; Richmond, Virginia; and St. Paul, Minnesota.

While supporters of the statue in Philadelphia have argued that it is a source of pride for people with Italian heritage, critics have said that Columbus’s arrival in the New World led to the genocide and exploitation of Indigenous populations in the Americas — a history void of reasons to celebrate the man.

Kenney appeared to agree with that sentiment on June 15, 2020, when he wrote to the city’s public art director that Columbus’ “history must be accounted for when considering whether to erect or maintain a monument to this person,” according to court documents.

The Historical Commission in Philadelphia held a public hearing on the matter later that summer, with more than 180 people voicing their opinions over six hours.

The commission recommended that the statue be removed “to advance public safety and to protect the statue,” according to court documents.

But Friends of Marconi Plaza quickly disputed that directive, saying in court that the group’s members had been “active caretakers” of the plaza for 10 years and had a direct interest in the future of the statue.

The city argued that because individuals in the group did not own property adjacent to the Columbus statue, they could not demonstrate a “particularized impact on their use and enjoyment of their property” if the statue were removed. The argument did not appear to persuade the judges.

Still, Lessard said Friday that the city would “continue to explore our options for a way forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture while respecting the histories and circumstances of everyone’s different backgrounds.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

December 11, 2022

NFL owner by day, rock 'n' roller by night

Dutch artists turn to gold at Bonhams Old Master Paintings Sale

Do Ho Suh opens exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

A groundbreaking generative digital artwork by Beeple, opens at M+ today

Morphy's adds quality and beauty to holidays with elegant Fine & Decorative Arts Auction

Stephenson's to auction the last of Perry Pfeffer's legendary collection of rock concert posters

Mysteries of a Venetian perfectionist revealed in Washington

Goldin Acquires Sell My Comic Books, enabling anyone to seamlessly appraise & list their comics for sale

Red 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe with rare split rear window brings $129,800 in Miller & Miller's auction

Art Rotterdam 2023 new sculpture park celebrates connection with the city of Rotterdam

Box covering Columbus statue in Philadelphia must be removed, court rules

Madeleine Bialke, M. Florine Démosthéne, Sahara Longe, Nadia Waheed at the Alexander Berggruen Gallery

Ora Ora signs rising artist Joseph Tong, exclusive representation in greater China and South Korea

Dundee Contemporary Arts presents a new body of work by Glasgow-based artist Matthew Arthur Williams

Latest exhibitions at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, features works by Craig Drennen and Steve Locke

"José Lerma: Quieto, Quietud, Quietudes" at Almine Rech in Shanghai, China

Hamish Kilgour, whose New Zealand cult band had reach, dies at 65

An opera company's precarious future has some worried about a ripple effect

When Jewish artists wrestle with antisemitism

Review: Michelle Dorrance returns to the Joyce. Where's the zip?

47 Canal opens Danielle Dean's second solo exhibition

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful