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Christopher Columbus

(proposed statue)

Zurab K. Tsereteli

Cataño /  Christopher Columbus   Cataño /  Christopher Columbus


The Birth of the New World is a gift from the Russian Federation to the people of the United States. It acknowledges America's support for democracy in Russia and celebrates a future of growing interdependence among the nations of the world. It is the second of a two-part composition by the Georgian (Grusinian) artist Zurab Tsereteli that straddles two continents. The first, Birth of a New Man, was erected in Seville, Spain, in 1995. Completing the route of discovery of America, Birth of a New World depicts Columbus at the steering wheel [which was invented about 80 years after Columbus died], sails unfurled behind him. At his feet, the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, the three small ships which made the historic Atlantic crossing, sail across a relief map of the new world.
The monument, when constructed, is 120 meters high, and was to be constructed in the town of Cataño, Puerto Rico. Construction should have been began in late 1999, the monument was planned to be dedicated October 2000.
When the Puerto Rican public learned that Tsereteli had travelled all over the world looking for a place to put his statue — and, consequently, that the statue was pretty much a reject that no one wanted near his backyard — and when local architects and historians blasted Tsereteli for his innacuracies and lack of historic rigor (int.al. The steering wheel!), much controversy was raised.
Making matters worse was the sponsor of the statue. The mayor of the town of Cataño, Edwin Rivera Sierra accepted, at the insistence of Tsereteli, to raise the statue on the condition of having his municipality pay for the freight of the statue's parts from Russia. More than 2,700 individual pieces of cast bronze were shipped to Cataño, but quite a few of them suffered rust damage, and the entire wreck is literally rusting away at the proposed site (right photo). The municipality did not have money, either to replace the damaged parts, or to erect the monument in less than two or three project stages. Then the central Puerto Rican government changed, and the now ruling party (different from Rivera's) vetoed future money payments to the town's government for raising the statue. Rivera still states the statue would be erected with local money.
Finally, the U.S. government raised many objections for raising the huge monument, since it literally is in the way of the landing approach to San Juan's international airport. Two sites were proposed and rejected, and the third one was only accepted on condition that the statue had its pedestal redesigned, as to shorten it. There's no money to do that, either.

A 12-foot tall model of the statue was sold for scrap and reassembled in Dundalk, Maryland.

A model of this monument is the left photo, with the San Juan Harbor in the background. This model is 25 cm high and the diameter at the base is 10 cm.

Latest news, The Telegraph

Too ugly Christopher Columbus statue finds home after 20 years
By Fiona Govan 8:22PM BST 29 Jul 2010

A colossal statue of explorer Christopher Columbus has finally found a home in Puerto Rico after a two decade quest and a string of rejections because it was deemed too ugly

The 600-ton monument, which stands at 350 ft tall, was given to the United States as a gift of friendship by its Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.

But the bronze creation, designed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World in 1492, was shunned by cities across America before finally being accepted by Puerto Rico.

The statue depicts a towering Columbus at the wheel of a ship, three sails billowing behind him but critics complain that the arms are too long, the head too small and the explorer's pose - one hand raised in a stiff-armed greeting - makes him look ridiculous.

In Columbus, Ohio, it was rejected after earning the moniker "Chris Kong". The people of Baltimore, Maryland, similarly turned it down, but not before it was dubbed: "From Russia with Ugh".

Standing at twice the height of The Statue of Liberty without its base, the giant was also offered to New York, and the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami but all three declined to have it darken their skylines.

However, it may finally have found a resting place on the Caribbean shores of Puerto Rico, where Columbus landed in 1493.

The island, a territory of the USA but not one of its 50 states, accepted the gift but had been at pains to know where to put it.

Plans to erect it near Catano, a seaside resort near the capital San Juan, were scuppered when aviation authorities said its great height posed a threat to aircraft.

Now plans have been made to erect the statue on a site near the port of Arecibo on the island's northern coast, according to Jose Gonzalez, whose company runs the port.

"It already was inspected by the artist and approved by him," Mr Gonzalez said of the proposed site.

The island's government has estimated that it would cost more than $20 million dollars (£12.8m) to assemble the statue from its 2,750 pieces, but believe it would prove a valuable tourist attraction.

Tsereteli, 76, one of Russia's best-known sculptors, has produced a long list of artistic creations reviled the world over.

When his 300ft tall statue of Peter the Great was unveiled on the banks of the Moscow river, protesters thought it so ugly they placed explosives at its base, only abandoning plans to blow it up for fear of killing passersby.

His more modest sized memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales, unveiled at Moscow's museum of modern art in 2001 was described as "a cross between Catherine the Great and a Georgian milkmaid".

This monument on stamps

Scott 6108


Sources & Information

  • Photo of the parts: Don Ager.


    Exact Location Unknown

    Item Code: pr008; Added: 18 November 2006  / Updated: 6 December 2010

    © Website: René & Peter van der Krogt

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