Academics and Artists Weigh in on Controversial City Monuments

Academics and Artists Weigh in on Controversial City Monuments


The statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the American Museum of Natural History that petitioners want removed.

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

In an open letter published on Friday by Hyperallergic, more than 120 academics and artists have urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove five public monuments and markers they say celebrate racism.

The letter singles out the Christopher Columbus monument at Columbus circle, the statue of President Theodore Roosevelt outside of the American Museum of Natural History, the Dr. J. Marion Sims statue in Central Park, and two commemorative markers bearing the names of Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval.

It comes on the heels of the final public hearing of the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, which was held on Tuesday.

The commission held five hearings, one in each borough, during which city residents could discuss the pieces in question and propose strategies for how to address the controversy surrounding them.


The statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, on 5th Avenue at 103rd Street, is one monument petitioners want removed from public display in the city.

The New York Times

The letter’s signers, who include the well-known artist and art historian Deborah Willis and the art critic and theoretician Hal Foster, argue that the monuments and markers honor figures who represent a variety of racist views and practices.

Columbus has been criticized for his treatment of the indigenous people he encountered in the Caribbean and for his role in the European invasion of the Americas; President Roosevelt’s opinions about racial hierarchy and eugenics are now routinely rebuked; and Dr. J. Marion Sims is frequently condemned for his medical experiments on enslaved women. Pétain and Laval were leading members of the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

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