Artists to NYPD: Return Edward Snowden bust we put in park

By Jennifer Peltz
Published April 15, 2015 1:00PM (EDT)

NEW YORK (AP) — The mysterious artists who planted a bust of Edward Snowden on a Revolutionary War monument now want to free their sculpture from police custody and display it again, saying it was intended as a thought-provoking "gift to the city."

The artists are applying for permission to show parkgoers their likeness of the former National Security Agency secret-leaker, their lawyer, Ronald Kuby, told police in a letter Tuesday. In the meantime, a Manhattan gallery wants to show the sculpture next month.

"We feel the piece would offer a great deal of good" and reflect the city's history as a home for free thinkers if exhibited through a temporary art-in-parks program, the artists — who have kept their identity secret — said in a statement Tuesday.

Police said they're holding the sculpture while investigating its unauthorized, dark-of-night appearance April 6 in Fort Greene Park; it was removed within hours. Deputy Chief Kim Royster wouldn't comment on the status of the probe but noted that police may return confiscated property after investigations conclude.

The 4-foot-high, 100-pound, fiberglass-reinforced cement bust of Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia after divulging secret U.S. government collection of phone records, turned up on a monument that honors American captives who died on British prison ships during the Revolutionary War. The three artists say they considered the bust "a gift to the city" that could spur discussion about American ideals, values and heroes.

Parks officials and police didn't see it that way.

"The object was erected in the park without permission or authority," Royster said in an email.

The city Parks Department didn't respond to a request for comment on the artists' bid for permission to display the sculpture in future.

Parks activist Geoffrey Croft feels the bust deserves a place in the city's public space, regardless how viewers may feel about Snowden.

"New York City has a long, storied history of art and dissention," said Croft, who heads NYC Parks Advocates, a nonprofit group.

After all, the "Charging Bull" statue that has now become a symbol of Wall Street was an artist's surprise, deposited overnight outside the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. City officials ultimately accepted it and installed it nearby.

For now, downtown Manhattan gallery Postmasters hopes to show the Snowden bust next month.

"It's a very interesting effort and gesture," both in its subject and its unauthorized unveiling, said co-founder Magdalena Sawon.

She doesn't know who the artists are, she said.


Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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