Equal rights activists, artists, and married couple Gillie and Marc Schattner are bringing gender-balanced public art to global cities with their new initiative, “Statues for Equality,” which aims to introduce statues of living women to cities that favor statues of male figures (so, most cities). New York will be the first city to display 10 of the artist-couple’s statues, all of which will pay tribute to living women. Authors among these women will include renowned public figures Oprah Winfrey (author of What I Know for Sure) and Jane Goodall (author of In the Shadow of Man).
According to the couple’s website, fewer than 3% of public statues in New York depict women, and even fewer depict historical women who made or are making significant contributions to society—as opposed to children’s book characters. Writers, world leaders, researchers, and more will debut at 1285 Avenue of the Americas on August 26th, 2019.
Gillie and Marc are perhaps best known for their widely popular sculpture The Last Three, a massive work featuring three life-sized northern white rhinos stacked precariously on top of one another that was installed at Astor Place and which was intended to immortalize the three remaining northern white rhinos in the world. (Since the statue’s debut, the last male northern white rhino has died while two females are still alive; all three are depicted in the sculpture.) The statue is now located at the San Antonio Zoo in Texas. According to their website, Gillie and Marc have nicknamed themselves “the world’s most loving artists” due to their tendency to focus on humanitarian causes in their work.
In addition to Goodall and Winfrey, the summer installation will also feature Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, P!nk, Tererai Trent, Janet Mock, Tracy Dyson, Cheryl Strayed, and Gabby Douglas. You may recognize Harriet Tubman (St. Nicholas Avenue and West 122nd Street) and Joan of Arc (West 93rd Street in Riverside Park) as two of the existing five statues of historical women figures in the city—sculptures depicting fictional figures include Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Fearless Girl.
There are no plans for the statues to remain permanently at 1285 Avenue of the Americas after the exhibition closes, but the team’s website emphasizes that Statues for Equality is a global initiative, and the sculptures will likely travel. Gillie and Marc will expand their initiative to other cities after the New York launch and are still accepting nominations from the public for future statues.