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Unconditional Surrender (sculpture)

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The sculpture in Times Square, August 2015
The photograph by Victor Jorgensen of the same scene as Eisenstaedt's V–J day in Times Square

Unconditional Surrender is a series of sculptures by Seward Johnson resembling a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, V–J day in Times Square, but said by Johnson to be based on a similar, less well known, photograph by Victor Jorgensen. The original statue was first installed in Sarasota, Florida, then was moved to San Diego, California and New York City. Other versions have been installed in Hamilton, New Jersey; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Normandy, France.

2005 - original Sarasota installation

Seward Johnson first built a life-size bronze precursor to the huge statues of Unconditional Surrender using computer technology. A 25-foot (7.6 m)-tall styrofoam version of the work was part of a temporary exhibition in Sarasota, Florida in 2005, at its bay front.[1]

Johnson proceeded with the manufacture of aluminum versions of the 25-feet-tall statue, marketing them through a foundation he had created. He offered copies ranging from $542,500 for styrofoam, $980,000 for aluminum, and $1,140,000 for bronze.[1] Johnson established the Sculpture Foundation to disseminate his work.[citation needed]

2007 - San Diego original installation

After being exhibited in Florida, the statue was moved to San Diego, California, on a flatbed truck.[2] The second place to exhibit Unconditional Surrender was in Tuna Harbor Park (formerly G Street Mole Park) where the Port of San Diego installed one temporarily in 2007.[3][4] The statue, made of a foam core with a urethane outer layer, was scheduled to be on loan through August 2010; however, it remained installed until May 2012, when it was dismantled and shipped to New Jersey for restoration.[5]

The statue's placement was criticized by multiple people. Robert L. Pincus, art critic of The San Diego Union Tribune, said that according to "theme-park logic" the statue suited the site, in front of the Midway Aircraft Museum, and that it pleased couples who mimicked the pose, but that it was kitsch and "The figures look like something from a cheap souvenir factory, blown up beyond any reason."[3] Other critics stated that the statue "was not artistically or [a]esthetically pleasing."[2][6]

2009 - return to Sarasota

Interest in a revisit to Sarasota in 2009 was cultivated by a director of a bay-front biannual show and an aluminum copy was placed at the bay-front, again temporarily. An "88-year-old donor, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II" offered to pay half a million dollars for it against an initial asking price of $680,000.[7]

While some members of the community supported the statue, others felt the statue was not good enough to be displayed on the bay front. The Chairwoman of the Public Art Committee at the time said that "it doesn't even qualify as kitsch...It is like a giant cartoon image drafted by a computer emulating a famous photograph. It's not the creation of an artist. It's an artist copying a famous image."[7] The statue was immediately controversial, with some people calling for its removal[8] for various reasons, including the fact that it may constitute copyright infringement.[9]

Joel May, a Sarasota architect and a member of the city's public art committee, raised an issue of possible copyright infringement, because of the similarity of the sculpture to V–J day in Times Square, published in Life in 1945 and still protected by copyright. Johnson said he was aware of this issue, and had used another photograph of the kissing couple taken by Victor Jorgensen, which is in the public domain.[10] The attorney for the municipal government said that the attorneys for Johnson and the donor had fulfilled the requirements set by the city commission, making way for exhibition of the statue for at least ten years.[11]

An automobile crash occurred on April 26, 2012,[12] during which the Sarasota copy of the statue was struck by a vehicle and was damaged. The impact knocked about a 3-foot-wide hole out of the sailor's foot and added more hairline cracks to its frame. This led to the statue being taken down by the city,[13] which laid the statue onto its side, close to the site, while insurance companies negotiate over liability and repair issues. The minimum distance for a road hazard established by the state of Florida is fourteen feet, but barely met that standard because it was erected near one of the busiest and most complex intersections in the city.[citation needed] The statue attracted visitors who gathered around the base and often backed up to the curb to take photographs. No one was present when the automobile jumped the curb and careened into the statue. Debate about returning the statue to that location has begun, with an editorial calling for moving the statue to a safer location, as had been advocated by critics before the statue was placed for the controversial ten-year display.[14] The statue was re-erected near the Sarasota shoreline in December 2012.[15]

In March 2012, the San Diego Unified Port District voted to purchase a permanent bronze replacement for the loaner. This controversial move resulted in the resignation of three board members.[6][16] Despite the controversy, construction of the new weather-resistant bronze statue proceeded,[17][18] in part due to a fundraising campaign by the Midway Museum that raised US$1 million.[19]

2010 - Hamilton, New Jersey

A 25' styrofoam Unconditional Surrender sculpture, built in 2005 and on loan from Seward Johnson's Sculpture Foundation was installed at the 42-acre Grounds for Sculpture (GFS) in Hamilton, New Jersey as part of a retrospective honoring Johnson which ran from May 4, 2014, through July 1, 2015.[20][21][22] Writing up this event, a staff writer for The Trentonian described Unconditional Surrender as a "masterpiece".[22]

2011 - Pearl Harbor

In August 2011, a life-size version of the statue was unveiled in Waikiki, Hawaii, and later taken to the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor, where it was to stay to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the end of World War II.[23]

2012 - Civitavecchia, Italy

In 2012, a monumental statue of Unconditional Surrender could be seen in Civitavecchia Marina.

2013 - San Diego re-installation

The bronze replacement Unconditional Surrender statue arrived at its new home on February 11, 2013.[24] On February 14, 2013, the replacement was bolted into place near its original location.[25]

2014 - Caen, France

Unconditional Surrender by John Seward Johnson II (Caen, France)
Unconditional Surrender by John Seward Johnson II (Caen, France)

In September 2014, the statue was removed from Civitavecchia and installed at the Caen Memorial in Normandy.[26] In Civitavecchia, hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the dismantling.
It was precisely this installation in Caen, which was conversely also controversial. In October 2014, French feminist group Osez La Feminisme [fr] petitioned to have the statue removed and sent back to the United States, stating, "the sailor could have laughed with these women, embraced them, asked if he could kiss them with joy. No, he chose to grab them, with clenched fists, to kiss them. It was an assault."[27] Following this incident, the Caen memorial placed a plaque under the sculpture to explain the nurse's identity.[28]

2015 - New York City

On August 12, 2015, the original sculpture was temporarily installed in Times Square, New York City, near where the original photo was taken. It was to be displayed through August 16 for a "Times Square Kiss-In" event.[28]

Other locations

Civitavecchia (Rome) Italy

The statue can be found in other places around the world. The popular Roman cruise terminal of Civitavecchia in Italy has one that is very tall and overlooks the sea. It is a short walk from the cruise ships on the way to the train to Rome.[29]

Sarasota, Florida

A copy of the statue is a popular photo spot in Sarasota, Florida according to photos on TripAdvisor as of March 2016. It is located at the corner of Bayfront and Gulf Stream and was donated by Jack Curran, a World War II veteran who had brought it there. Through the help of several Sarasota County veteran's organizations, it was finally donated to the county, according to a plaque on display at the base of the statue.[30]

Royal Oak, Michigan

The statue arrived in Royal Oak, Michigan on June 18, 2016, and was installed in the city's Memorial Park on June 20. The city manager expected that the sculpture would increase tourism, and help raise money for The Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial, a permanent World War II memorial in the park.[31] It was removed six months later, on December 20.[32]

Key West, Florida

A copy of the statue was placed in Key West, Florida on January 10, 2017. it is located in Downtown Key West, in the Mallory Square area. In front of the Custom House Museum and across from the Mel Fisher Museum.[33]

Mémorial du Mardasson, Bastogne, Belgium

Located outside the museum on the grounds between the museum and the pentastar Memorial.[citation needed]


Unconditional Surrender has been a topic of[34] controversy in recent times, after it emerged that the recipient of the famous kiss was not known to the sailor depicted, George Mendosa. 1st Class George Mendonsa, died Feb. 16 at the age of 95. The woman in his arms was Greta (Zimmer) Friedman.[35] The statue has been vandalised with #MeToo graffiti as a result amid accusations that it depicts a sexual assault. The Sarasota Police Department tweeted Tuesday morning that police were dispatched to the statue around 12:53 a.m. for a report of a person vandalizing the "Unconditional Surrender" statue. When officers arrived, they saw the words "#MeToo" painted on the woman's left leg. Police believe the incident happened Monday, but there are no surveillance cameras in the area and no witnesses, authorities say.[36]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Sarasotaseasonofsculpture.org". Web.archive.org. March 24, 2009. Archived from the original on March 24, 2009. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  2. ^ a b A. Pawlowski (February 21, 2013). "Love it or hate it? 'Kissing Statue' returns to San Diego, ignites debate". today.com. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Robert L. Pincus, "Port surrenders in the battle against kitsch" Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 11, 2007. Accessed June 8, 2010.
  4. ^ Robert L. Pincus, "Public enemy", Sign On San Diego, November 8, 2009.
  5. ^ "Unconditional surrender by Seward J Johnson", Port of San Diego.
  6. ^ a b Roger Showley (March 15, 2012). "Two art board members resign over 'Kiss'". San Diego Tribune. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Drouin, Roger (June 20, 2009). "Veteran Puts up Big Money to Keep Statue Put". The Ledger. Lakeland, FL. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  8. ^ SNN: Unconditional Surrender sparks debate, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Video; requires plug-in.
  9. ^ Ralph Graves, "Reject 'copycat' sailor statue", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, August 21, 2009.
  10. ^ Mike Saewitz, "Sculptor at center of copyright infringement case", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 9, 2006. Accessed June 8, 2010.
  11. ^ Jacob Ogles, "Unconditional Surrender Deal to Be Finalized Today", SRQ Daily, June 11, 2010
  12. ^ Smoak, Brenda & Schelle, Charles (April 26, 2012). "Unconditional Surrender Removed For Repairs (with video)". Sarasota Patch.
  13. ^ Eckhart, Robert (April 28, 2012). "Unconditional Surrender statue comes down after crash". Sarasota Herald Tribune.
  14. ^ "Surrender some ground for statue (Editorial)". Sarasota Herald Tribune. April 28, 2012.
  15. ^ "PHOTOS: Unconditional Surrender Statue Returns To Sarasota". Sarasota Patch. Open Post. December 5, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  16. ^ "Menken, Walter, Schmart, San Diego Reader, March 19, 2012". Sandiegoreader.com. March 19, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  17. ^ R. Stickney (February 11, 2013). "Unconditional Surrender Statue to Return | NBC 7 San Diego". Nbcsandiego.com. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  18. ^ "'Unconditional Surrender' Will Become Permanent Artwork On San Diego's Waterfront". Port of San Diego. May 19, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  19. ^ "SAN DIEGO "SAVES THE KISS" BY DONATING $1 MILLION". USS Midway Museum. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  20. ^ "Seward Johnson: The Retrospective". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on October 5, 2014. Retrieved October 9, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  21. ^ "The Retrospective Site Map (See: Icons Revisited Series)" (PDF). Groundsforsculpture.org. Grounds for Sculpture. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  22. ^ a b Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, "Seward Johnson's towering sculpture of iconic kiss installed in Hamilton", Trentonian, April 27, 2010.
  23. ^ "http://ulocal.kitv.com/_Vanita-Rae-Smith-After-Unveiling-Kiss-Statue/photo/14729759/62911.html?as=62911 Vanita Rae Smith After Unveiling Kiss Statue"
  24. ^ "Replica 'kissing statue' bolted into place Wednesday". CBS8. February 13, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  25. ^ "Statue of the famous moment a sailor kissed a stranger in Times Square at the end of World War II to be installed". The Daily Mail. February 10, 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  26. ^ ASSOCIATED PRESS. "WWII kissing statue lands in Normandy". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  27. ^ "Iconic 'kiss' sculpture depicts sexual assault says French feminist group". Telegraph.co.uk. October 10, 2014.
  28. ^ a b Alanna Martinez (August 12, 2015). "Monumental—and Controversial—'Kissing Sailor' Sculpture Comes to Times Square". The Observer. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  29. ^ http://www.aswesawit.com/civitavecchia-attractions/
  30. ^ http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g34618-d6401028-Reviews-Unconditional_Surrender_Sculpture-Sarasota_Florida.html#photos;geo=34618&detail=6401028&ff=175880796&albumViewMode=hero&albumid=103&baseMediaId=175880796&thumbnailMinWidth=50&cnt=3&offset=-1&filter=7
  31. ^ Proxmire, Crystal A. (June 18, 2016) "Royal Oaka;s 25 ft. 'Unconditional Surrender' statue has arrived" Oakland County One-Fifteen News
  32. ^ "Giant 25-foot WWII 'kissing' statue removed from Royal Oak". ClickOnDetroit.com. Graham Media Group. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  33. ^ CBS Miami, Statue Of Iconic Kiss On Display In Key West, CBS Miami, January 10, 2017
  34. ^ https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/unconditional-surrender-statue-in-florida-vandalized-with-metoo-graffiti
  35. ^ https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2019/02/20/reporters-notebook-goodbye-to-a-pair-of-american-icons/
  36. ^ https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/19/george-mendonsa-death-kissing-sailor-statue-painted-with-metoo-sarasota/2916338002/
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Unconditional Surrender (sculpture)
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