Sculpture Celebrating Saudi Arabia Goes Up (and Down) on Manhattan’s Ground Zero

ccontroversial WTC sculptureArtwork celebrating Saudi Arabia was installed on the site of New York’s World Trade Center last week, near the 9/11 memorial to the 2,763 victims of the attack on the towers.  So what’s the problem with sweet sculptures? Recall that 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out those terror attacks were Saudi citizens. Immediate outcry from survivors and victims’ family members prompted removal of the offending Saudi statue from the site of the 2001 mass murder.

The nine-foot tall statue of a wrapped candy adorned with Saudi Arabia’s flag and the Arabic inscription, “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the prophet” was created by French sculptor Laurence Jenkell in 2011 as part of a larger exhibit entitled ‘Candy Nations’. The installation, which depicts countries in the G20 Summit as candy statues, has been featured at more than 25 international sites.

Inexplicably, the installation was curated and installed outside the Oculus transit the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), the bi-state agency that built and occupied the Twin Towers – more than 80 of their employees perished in the 9/11 attacks.  The agency issued a press release last month, which stated:

“In its continuing efforts to transform the World Trade Center site into a dynamic space in Lower Manhattan, the Port Authority announced that beginning today it will showcase famous candy sculptures around the World Trade Center campus crafted by renowned French artist Laurence Jenkell.”

Immediate negative reaction prompted today’s new statement from the agency: “We have been in contact with the 9/11 Memorial and various stakeholders, and in full collaboration with the artist will relocate the exhibit from its current location. We believe this solution respects the unique sensitivities of the site and preserves the artistic integrity of the exhibit.”

PANYNJ art gone wrong“It was pretty shocking,” said Brett Eagleson, who lost his father during the World Trade Center attacks. told The Observer. “For our family specifically, it hit home even more. My dad’s last words to us were that he was going up the stairs to grab radios to give to Port Authority.”

Eagleson is part of an ongoing federal lawsuit against the Saudi government by the legal firm Kreindler & Kreindler. In 2003, hundreds of families affected by the 9/11 terror attacks sued the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over its alleged involvement in harboring terrorism. Last March, a US federal judge rejected Saudi Arabia’s motion to drop the charges. “To us, to have the Port Authority allow Saudi Arabia around Ground Zero when Saudi Arabia is in the middle of a federal lawsuit in Southern Manhattan is just unacceptable,” continued Eagleson.

The artist’s exhibit will find a new home at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where it will be prominently displayed throughout the AirTrain system.

“The Port Authority is apparently now taking the right action this week by removing the sculpture from the plaza at Ground Zero,” said a statement signed by 16 families affected by the World Trade Center attacks. “Its apparent plan to relocate the exhibit to JFK International Airport is questionable as well, for obvious reasons. But surely the sculpture should be nowhere near the site of this mass murder.”

Green Prophet has written about questionable Saudi art. But seriously…shouldn’t whomever approved this insensitive installation also be removed?


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