Playing Erect-Your-Own-Sculpture in Central Park
The first Bolivar was dedicated in Central Park, near 82nd Street, in 1884, but was quietly hauled away in the 1890s, while a new version was awaiting approval. For two decades the pedestal remained empty - except for one April night in 1916, when a boisterous group of artists helped their friend William Diederich hoist his pair of bronze greyhounds onto the pedestal. "What do we care for the art critics or the academicians or the Art Commission or the cops now?" declared one conspirator, quoted in the New York Times. "The dogs are upl Let them take them down if they can, if they will."
The Parks Department could and did, the very next day. You can see a detail of Playing Greyhounds online (it's still under copyright). More excerpts from the New York Times’ coverage of the incident appear here.
Bolivar’s View on the Struggle for Latin American Independence
In the midst of the battle for independence from Spain, Bolivar wrote to a friend:
The abuses, neglects, lack of organicity, are the result of causes it has not been in my power to correct, for many reasons: first, because a man in brief time and with scant general knowledge cannot do everything: not well, not even badly; second, because I have had to devote myself to expelling the enemy; third, because in our frightening chaos of patriots, traitors, egoists, white, colored, Venezuelans,Granadans, federalists, centralists, republicans, artistocrats, good and bad, and the whole caboodle of hierarchies in which every band is split, there are so many conditions to be observed that, dear friend, I have been forced many a time to be unjust in order to be politic - and when I've been just I've paid for it! -- Simon Bolivar, Letter to Antonio Narino, April 1821
Changing Taste in Art
In 1899 Layton Crippen, art critic of the New York Times, wrote:
Let a tract of land be selected in some secluded country vale far from the city's bustle (as far away as possible) and there let the marble and bronze figures of the departed be removed. In a few years - who knows - the equestrian statue of Gen. Bolivar might become almost beautiful with Virginia creeper, and even the Worth Monument [Fifth Avenue at 25th St.] be picturesque, with clinging ivy. Thither might be taken the seated figure of William H. Seward which now occupies valuable room in [the southwest corner of] Madison Square, together with the equestrian Washington, with the abnormal tail to the horse, from Union Square. Like the people in the Mikado's song, neither Horace Greeley nor William E. Dodge would be missed from the neighborhood of Broadway and Thirty-third Street, nor would the loss of the figure of Dr. Sims, with the combination toga-overcoat, be deeply felt by the frequenters of Bryant Park. -- Layton Crippen, "Unsightly New York Statues," New York Times 5/7/1899
Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante