Unconditional Surrender

Letters to City Officials

These are e-mail messages sent to Sarasota city commissioners by folks who live in Sarasota. Because these messages have been sent to public officials, they all are public record, however, their names are not included here to ensure privacy on the Internet.

eMail Commissioners

•••
I have been following the debate about the Unconditional Surrender statue on the Bay front, and I am compelled to request that the commission not allow the statue to remain a permanent fixture on our precious waterfront.

Aside from the public discussion over the question of the artwork’s legitimacy and unresolved claims of copyright infringement, there should be a public process and review before making such a commitment. Is public space on our waterfront for sale? Is a relatively small donation of $500,000 all it takes to forever change the look and image of our downtown?

On a personal level, I ask you to consider whether it sends the right message for Sarasota, as a community that is continually promoting itself a cultural community and arts friendly destination, to put such a questionable piece in such a prominent position. I’m afraid that this piece in particular represents Sarasota as a “retirement community” that isn’t able to distinguish quality world-class art from a public spectacle. There is a difference, and this anonymous donor shouldn’t be making that call on behalf of our community.

•••
I am very concerned about the placement of Unconditional Surrender structure. One thing was to have it as part of the Season of Sculpture, we knew it was not permanent and another is for everyone to have to look at it everyday, no choice whatsoever. I have no problem with the structure staying in the City, but I firmly believe that it should be installed in a less prominent location, at a park where it will have space around it for these tourists (that by reading some of the newspaper articles and opinions of people deeply involved with this issue) seem to be the only ones that bring prosperity to our city.

It is also very sad to know that some of our denizens think that this structure is comparable to icons such as the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Sarasota has the distinction of being considered a leader in the Arts in the State of Florida, a work like this doesn’t belong on our bayfront. As we all know there are copies of this work in San Diego and New York City, but the scale and history of these two cities can carry the weight of such structure. San Diego has an important naval base and New York City has many serious and wonderful works of art and museums that balance the issue of having enormous objects like Unconditional Surrender on display.

Please do not let the City of Sarasota be blackmailed by an anonymous person and a small group of people with too much money and little common sense into keeping this at its present location. The anonymous donor has the right to give his money to anyone and or any cause, he is free to do this but why should he trample the rights of others in the process.

I have nothing but respect for our veterans, in my family there were many who gave their lives for our country in both World Wars and in Vietnam and Korea. I do not like the position of the advocates for purchasing Unconditional

Surrender of declaring anyone who does not agree with them as unpatriotic. Sarasota deserves a work of art with the following characteristics: Originality…Iconic…A site-specific work, inspired by the City of Sarasota. I am very sure that with the help of the Public Art Committee along with the assistance of a serious art curator this could be achieved.

•••

Please please please do not allow this overblown dime store novelty to remain on Sarasota’s Bayfront. It does not promote tourism or draw tourists to our town as has been argued, tourists will stop and pose next to anything, plastic dinosaurs, giant balls of twine, literally ANYTHING. They do not fly here to see a foam representation of a truly great (albeit staged) photograph. Leave Le Barge to do ‘tacky’ and let’s keep the Bayfront itself to a higher standard.

•••

When I returned to my en Provence home in Longboat Key in early 2009, I become extremely dismayed to see that the grotesque statue (that some naively consider to be art) had returned to mar our beautiful bay front.  It is simply hideous and I sincerely hope that the following comments will be considered when the issue of a permanent bay front location comes before you and the Council on July 6th.

This statue has absolutely no relevance to Sarasota. Neither the nurse nor the sailor was from our area, the “Kiss” did not occur in Sarasota, we have no naval base located in our area, and the artist is not from Sarasota. It adds nothing to our Bayfront and is actually more appropriate to Times Square.  In addition, we have so many great artists living and working in Sarasota so it is inconceivable to me why Sarasota would even consider having this statue permanently displayed in our area. We should support our own artists and their works.

The proponents of keeping the statue cite hours of video showing people strolling near the statue and taking pictures.  I don’t think I need to remind you that thousands  have their pictures taken in front of Donald Duck and Micky Mouse at Disney World but do we want those statues on our Bay front?  I would also like you to consider contacting my nephew, Dennis Jordan, who is in his early 20’s and visits Longboat Key several times a year. He can provide you with some comments he has heard.  When the statue was previously on the Bay front, several of his friends came to St. Armands Circle from Venice. Naturally they observed the “Kiss” and they too took pictures of it having absolutely no clue as to the history of the statue. In fact, guys were joking and pretending to look up the dress of the nurse.  It is a joke.

Another comment is that while it was noteworthy at the time the original photograph was snapped, the people who identify with that period in our history are now in their 80s and 90s.  Their life span is probably another 10-15 years at most.  So my advice is that if the City is determined to accept this monstrosity, then it should be placed in a Veterans Park.  My generation remembers Viet Nam so where is our statue to be located? My nephew’s generation will remember Iraq and Afghanistan so where is their statue to be located?  And what about a statue to remember 9/11?   I happen to have a vintage Jaguar convertible so what if I wanted to give it to the City to be placed on the bay front for all the vintage car lovers?  How are you going to determine what is art and then pick and chose which pieces can be located on our bay front? You and the Council need to ponder this as you are setting up a dangerous precedent.

While I cannot go into the mind of the elderly donor, I would suggest his dollars might be better spent providing food and lodging to those struggling veterans of his generation.   It just seems to me to be a waste of resources but I know this is not within the City’s purview.

Lastly, I understand the Arts Commission will receive a commission if the sale is consummated, but that is a small consideration in comparison to spoiling our beautiful bay front.  We now have an aesthetically pleasing, graceful bridge over the Bay which projects a future look; I think our bay front should do the same. It is not a time to look back but to look forward and that certainly should apply to our artwork as well.

•••

I read that there is someone who has offered to pay for this statue and donate it to the city – along with the condition that it remain in it’s current location.   I understand this will be on your agenda in July.   Regardless of whether or not I believe it is “art “, I think it is important
for the City to fully understand all of the conditions that will involve this donation – remember the Memory Walk in Five Points Park.   Given it’s location, if there is a decision to do a roundabout at that intersection, will it need to be moved?   What will be involved in doing that if the agreement is to keep it in it’s current location? The City will have the responsibility to maintain this public art and as you recall, the original installation was vandalized and had to be repainted at least once. There are so many more important uses for taxpayer dollars than maintaining this piece of art.   I don’t believe that this is the right time to say yes.

•••

Please count me among those who are embarrassed by the Kiss statue on
the waterfront and want it to be relocated to the fairgrounds where it
would be more appropriate.
Accepting money to decide placement is wrong. Vote no, please.

•••


I read that there is someone who has offered to pay for this statue and donate it to the city – along with the condition that it remain in it’s current location.   I understand this will be on your agenda in July.   Regardless of whether or not I believe it is “art “, I think it is important
for the City to fully understand all of the conditions that will involve this donation – remember the Memory Walk in Five Points Park.   Given it’s location, if there is a decision to do a roundabout at that intersection, will it need to be moved?   What will be involved in doing that if the agreement is to keep it in it’s current location? The City will have the responsibility to maintain this public art and as you recall, the original installation was vandalized and had to be repainted at least once. There are so many more important uses for taxpayer dollars than maintaining this piece of art.   I don’t believe that this is the right time to say yes.

•••

Please count me among those who are embarrassed by the Kiss statue on
the waterfront and want it to be relocated to the fairgrounds where it
would be more appropriate.
Accepting money to decide placement is wrong. Vote no, please.

As one who is quite familiar with the work of Seward Johnson, having seen
many examples at Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey (a sculpture park
Johnson founded to exhibit his and many other artists’ works), I can
unequivocally state that Unconditional Surrender is very likely the worst thing
he has ever done.

His work varies from a  magnificent statue of King Lear to the campy
reproductions in sculpture of impressionist paintings.
In no way, whether as an example of Johnson’s work or as a symbol of art
representing Sarasota’s commitment to the arts, should Unconditional
Surrender remain on the bay front.

•••

PLEASE   DO NOT ALLOW UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER  TO REMAIN ON OUR BEAUTIFUL WATERFRONT.
PLEASE !!!!!!

•••

I have no doubt that you are receiving volumes of mail from people who are reminded of their youth and feel a wave of pride in their military service when they look at the Seward Johnson “sculpture” on the bayfront entitled “Unconditional Surrender.”
Nonetheless, I implore you not to saddle subsequent generations with this hideous, derivative giant cartoon.
I agree wholeheartedly with Virginia Hoffman, chairperson of the Public Art Committee, that the piece does not even rise to the quality of “kitsch” (as per this morning’s Herald-Tribune article).   But even if it did, why would Sarasota want to sully our glorious bayfront with an enormous piece of kitsch?
Please, if you must impede our view of the water, choose something elegant, nondivisive — and beautiful. I am a graduate of New College and the University of Chicago, with a BA and MA in art history, and I have been active in the arts in Sarasota and elsewhere for years.   I can assure you that no one in the art world takes Mr. Johnson’s work seriously.   As an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, he has the assets to publicize his awful work — unlike so many more deserving but poorer artists.   But if Sarasota installs this piece of junk permanently, the City will become a
laughingstock worldwide.   And part of your job as commissioners is to help Sarasota improve its image — not undermine it.   We’re supposed to be upscale, refined, sophisticated, arts-savvy, and a little continental — no?
A temporary exhibit for the amusement of well-meaning but unsophisticated viewers is one thing.   A permanent acquisition is quite another.   The reaction you are seeing to “Unconditional Surrender” is based on nostalgia, not quality
or aesthetics — and as such it should not be considered a viable candidate for a public work of art.
Please look to the future, not the past, when choosing public artworks.   Please recall that — I am sad to say — the people who most identify with “Unconditional Surrender” will all have passed on in a decade or so; and succeeding generations will be stuck with this travesty.   Those who will be enjoying a public installation for the next century or so deserve better. I can only wish the generous would-be donor would give his $500,000 to a worthwhile cause — say, arts education or
grants to needy artists.
Important:   This letter and opinion are in no way intended to denigrate the service and sacrifice of the men and women who fought in WWII.   They were indeed a great generation, one that will be forever remembered with gratitude and respect.   We see monuments to them all over America, and well deserved.
But one does not have to have bad taste to be patriotic.

•••

So say the least I find that cartoonish effigy, “Unconditional
Surrender” to be quite awful and it tarnishes my enjoyment of the
lovely Sarasota Bay.   I beseech you to use your influence towards
having it moved some place where no one has to see it if they don’t
want to.   It is an affront to good taste at the best and a cheap rip
off at it’s worst.
I thank you sincerely for your attention to this.

•••

Please please say “No” to a permanent home for “Unconditional Surrender” on our waterfront.
While this piece may be someone’s idea of art, it certainly isn’t mine.   I find it not only tacky and
classless, but, if given its current spot on a permanent basis, it will be an act of vandalism against
the natural beauty of our city.
Please understand that I appreciate and respect the historical significance of moment.   But I think
the quality of this piece does not honor that moment – it turns it into a frivolous, garish cartoon.
I enjoy and encourage the display artwork on the waterfront.   But the beauty of art is in the eye
of the beholder.   Keep the display of waterfront artwork on a rotational basis.   Even I can put up
with “Unconditional Surrender” for a fixed amount of time – just heaven forbid not permanently –
especially in such a prominent place in our community.

•••

As one who is quite familiar with the work of Seward Johnson, having seen
many examples at Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey (a sculpture park
Johnson founded to exhibit his and many other artists’ works), I can
unequivocally state that Unconditional Surrender is very likely the worst thing
he has ever done.

His work varies from a  magnificent statue of King Lear to the campy
reproductions in sculpture of impressionist paintings.
In no way, whether as an example of Johnson’s work or as a symbol of art
representing Sarasota’s commitment to the arts, should Unconditional
Surrender remain on the bay front.

•••
PLEASE   DO NOT ALLOW UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER  TO REMAIN ON OUR BEAUTIFUL WATERFRONT.
PLEASE !!!!!!

•••

I have no doubt that you are receiving volumes of mail from people who are reminded of their youth and feel a wave of pride in their military service when they look at the Seward Johnson “sculpture” on the bayfront entitled “Unconditional Surrender.”
Nonetheless, I implore you not to saddle subsequent generations with this hideous, derivative giant cartoon.
I agree wholeheartedly with Virginia Hoffman, chairperson of the Public Art Committee, that the piece does not even rise to the quality of “kitsch” (as per this morning’s Herald-Tribune article).   But even if it did, why would Sarasota want to sully our glorious bayfront with an enormous piece of kitsch?
Please, if you must impede our view of the water, choose something elegant, nondivisive — and beautiful.
I am a graduate of New College and the University of Chicago, with a BA and MA in art history, and I have been active in the arts in Sarasota and elsewhere for years.   I can assure you that no one in the art world takes Mr. Johnson’s workseriously.   As an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, he has the assets to publicize his awful work — unlike so many more deserving but poorer artists.   But if Sarasota installs this piece of junk permanently, the City will become a laughingstock worldwide.   And part of your job as commissioners is to help Sarasota improve its image — not undermine it.   We’re supposed to be upscale, refined, sophisticated, arts-savvy, and a little continental — no?
A temporary exhibit for the amusement of well-meaning but unsophisticated viewers is one thing.   A permanent acquisition is quite another.   The reaction you are seeing to “Unconditional Surrender” is based on nostalgia, not quality or aesthetics — and as such it should not be considered a viable candidate for a public work of art.
Please look to the future, not the past, when choosing public artworks.   Please recall that — I am sad to say — the people who most identify with “Unconditional Surrender” will all have passed on in a decade or so; and succeeding generations will be stuck with this travesty.   Those who will be enjoying a public installation for the next century or so deserve better.
I can only wish the generous would-be donor would give his $500,000 to a worthwhile cause — say, arts education or grants to needy artists.
Important:   This letter and opinion are in no way intended to denigrate the service and sacrifice of the men and women who fought in WWII.   They were indeed a great generation, one that will be forever remembered with gratitude and respect.   We see monuments to them all over America, and well deserved.
But one does not have to have bad taste to be patriotic.

•••

So say the least I find that cartoonish effigy, “Unconditional
Surrender” to be quite awful and it tarnishes my enjoyment of the
lovely Sarasota Bay.   I beseech you to use your influence towards
having it moved some place where no one has to see it if they don’t
want to.   It is an affront to good taste at the best and a cheap rip
off at it’s worst.
I thank you sincerely for your attention to this.

•••


Please please say “No” to a permanent home for “Unconditional Surrender” on our waterfront.
While this piece may be someone’s idea of art, it certainly isn’t mine.   I find it not only tacky and
classless, but, if given its current spot on a permanent basis, it will be an act of vandalism against
the natural beauty of our city.
Please understand that I appreciate and respect the historical significance of moment.   But I think
the quality of this piece does not honor that moment – it turns it into a frivolous, garish cartoon.
I enjoy and encourage the display artwork on the waterfront.   But the beauty of art is in the eye
of the beholder.   Keep the display of waterfront artwork on a rotational basis.   Even I can put up
with “Unconditional Surrender” for a fixed amount of time – just heaven forbid not permanently –
especially in such a prominent place in our community.

eMail Commissioners

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