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The ‘Unconditional Surrender’ Saga Continues

Aired 3/15/12 on KPBS News.

The controversial statue of a sailor kissing a nurse could become a permanent fixture on San Diego’s waterfront. Last week the Port of San Diego’s Board of Commissioners voted in favor of a bronze version of the statue. The move has angered members of the Port’s new public art committee.

The 25 foot sculpture on the San Diego bayfront called

Above: The 25 foot sculpture on the San Diego bayfront called "Unconditional Surrender." It is based on the famous photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt featuring a soldier kissing a nurse on V-J Day, Aug. 14, 1945.

A permanent version of the kissing-sailor statue was the first proposal to come before the Port of San Diego's new public art committee. The committee was beefed up over the past year to include more arts professionals including artists, curators, architects, and administrators.

To guide their decision, the public art committee used the recently revamped rules, part of a new Master Plan, for accepting donations of art into the Port's collection. They found that the proposed bronze statue, which would be an exact replica of the 25-foot "Unconditional Surrender," didn't meet the requirements, so they voted not to accept it by a vote of 6-4.

On March 6th, the Board of Commissioners listened to the public art committee's recommendation, but decided to accept the permanent statue anyway.

Michael Krichman, executive director of the arts organization inSite, recently joined the public art committee. He said by phone, "Right out of the box, with a new master plan, you have the same old problem cropping up of commissioners doing whatever they want and not respecting the professionals that they themselves pressed into service."

Hector Perez is an artist and professor at the Newschool of Architecture and was also recruited to serve on the public art committee. Perez commented by phone: "I see it as my civic duty to serve on a board when called upon, but this was a huge disappointment. They had an ambitious, lofty Master Plan and then went against it immediately."

Krichman says it was not just a matter of taste and aesthetics driving the public art committee's opposition to the statue. "It was really just a fundamental concern about the ethical basis of this particular object." He adds, the statue “is a blown up copy of an iconic photograph taken out of context.”

Krichman isn't the only new member on the committee frustrated with the commissioners' decision. David White, a local artist and founder of Agitprop, posted his thoughts in letter on his website.

A spokesman from the Port says the commissioners value the input of the public art committee, but the board decided to make their own decision.

Krichman says he suspects the statue will become "the mascot for the Port's public art collection for the foreseeable future."

The group proposing the permanent sculpture now has to raise $990,000 to fund its construction.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 15, 2012 at 7:32 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Why is this still in the news, and why is this being debated?

It's run its course, and now its time to go.

Get rid of it.

It's an eyesore.

It's a campy knock-off of a wonderful famous photograph of an event that took place in New York, not San Diego.

The people making noise about keeping this are doing so not because they think this ugly thing is pleasant to look at, they are doing so because they believe getting rid of it is somehow an insult to the military.

So once again, a small circle of squawkers are trying o shove their misguided military sensitivity down the throats of all citizens by breaking an agreement and trying to keep this (or an alternate for of it) on our port.

I even read on previous comments relating to this that other cities have rejected this same statue.

Is that *really* how San Diego wants to represent itself?

By showcasing a cartoonish eyesore that other cities have rejected of an even that took place in New York, not San Diego?

Thanks to the 6 on the arts committee who voted no to this, and to the 4 who voted yes - my dears, go get your eyes examined.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 15, 2012 at 6:41 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Can Kpbs please reveal the members of the port commission?

I want to know who is bullying this nasty embarrassment and why.

Perhaps someone with ties to the military?

Why bother having an arts committee if you are just going to ignore them?

I hope the money is not raised for this joke.

The only way it will be is if some wealthy right-wing activist like Papa Puke writes a check, because I can guarantee those grass-roots arts supporters wendomhave in this community are not going to give our money to go for such **crap**.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 16, 2012 at 8:26 a.m. ― 5 years ago

It looks "50'isish." But the original photograph was simply a spontaneous right place at the right time moment--contrary to the embelishments that Mr. White tried to give it in his article/letter.

But hey, I saw NOTHING that would reflect ANYTHING in CASA FAMILIAR's "mission statement" either in the bizarre paintings that were shown in the Beth Accomando piece a couple of days ago.

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Avatar for user 'mapintar'

mapintar | March 16, 2012 at 12:52 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Unfortunately this article fails to mention that two Port Commissioners, Scott Peters and Bob Nelson, voted against permanent placement of the statue. The reason is that they felt they should respect the advisement and expertise of these volunteers who had worked so hard to develop the public art guidelines.

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Avatar for user 'mapintar'

mapintar | March 16, 2012 at 12:54 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Port Commissioners Scott Peters and Bob Nelson voted against permanent placement of the statue.

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