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The ‘Unconditional Surrender’ Saga Continues

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.

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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