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Kissing Sailor Scheduled To Depart

The kissing sailor sculpture, officially titled "Unconditional Surrender," has been on temporary loan to San Diego since its arrival in 2007, courtesy of the Port of San Diego. That loan has been extended twelve times over the years. Though scheduled to leave at the end of 2011, a representative from the Port says the 6000-pound sculpture will now be removed at the end of February.


For six years, a 25-foot sculpture of a sailor kissing a nurse has towered over a bay-side park in downtown San Diego. KPBS arts reporter Angela Carone says it’s been on temporary loan and is now scheduled to depart.

The sculpture by J. Seward Johnson references an historic photograph by the late photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt. Snapped at just the right moment, Eisenstaedt's photograph features of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, celebrating the end of World War II.

Johnson's over-sized, brightly painted sculpture has romanced some and repulsed others.

When he was a member of the Port’s Public Art committee, San Diego architect Donald Reeves was instrumental in bringing "Unconditional Surrender" to the city's G Street Mole Park. He suggests that those who are critical of the statue "go down there and stand for ten minutes. Listen to all the comments and look at the thousands of people - not hundreds - but thousands who come by." Reeves goes on to say that "Unconditional Surrender" is "by far the most popular tourist item in San Diego. Nothing else comes close."

Reeves is currently trying to raise funds for a permanent, bronze version of the statue for the same location. This proposed version would look exactly like the current statue and be built at the same scale. The estimated cost of the proposed permanent sculpture is $990,000. Reeves says he has a long way to go, having not raised even a third of the required funds.

In 2007, we talked about "Unconditional Surrender" on the KPBS talk show "These Days." The show starts off with art critic Robert Pincus talking about how "Unconditional Surrender" fails on an artistic level. He called it monstrous in an article he wrote in the U-T San Diego and reiterates that on the show.

Early on, Pincus talks about what public art can and should do in a community. The show goes on to include callers chiming in on what public art means to them.

Later in the show, we talked with Catherine Sass, who was the public art director for the Port of San Diego at that time, and Anthony Block, the then chairman of the Port of San Diego's Public Art Committee. They talk about the Port's process for selecting public art.

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