Friend in 90 Languages
Since last November 2020, when Noa Bornstein installed her life-size Peace Gorilla in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, park visitors have responded to the ape’s outstretched arm with a friendly “high five.” The sculpture is mounted on a low concrete base inscribed with the word for friend in 90 languages—beginning with the six official languages of the UN. “The gorilla extended her arm to me as I was making her,” Bornstein notes. I was able to interpret the gesture: ‘Shalom, Salaam, Tomodachi—Hello, Peace, Friend,’ in Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese.”
“Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is a fitting location for Peace Gorilla, given the park’s historic role at UN Gateway and its namesake, Dag Hammarskjold, who was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The gorilla also reminds us of our commitment to the UN Goals for Sustainable Development, which includes caring for our environment and endangered species,” noted FDHP President Sherrill Kazan.
Cast in bronze, the sculpture will be on display through August 2021. Peace Gorilla is one of the many public art projects exhibited under the Arts in the Parks program of NYC Parks Department. Funding was made possible in part by the Puffin Foundation.
Finding a Connection
Based in Brooklyn, Noa Bornstein created the original piece out of sisal fiber and burlap in structolite and plaster over an armature of wire mesh and plumbing sections. It was cast in bronze this year at Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Bornstein’s previous public projects include Live Well, a small bronze installed in 2000 in TriBeCa Park, followed by touring exhibits in several other states. Her more recent public sculptures are of other fellow creatures who look for a connection with us, Praying Mantis Seeks Friends and Pig Seeks Friends, both temporary installations through NYC Parks and City Parks Foundation in 2017 and 2018.
Other public works include large-scale murals: Magritte in Los Angeles, and Striving Together, Mural at the Harlem Rehabilitation Center. Bornstein has exhibited at numerous galleries and her work has been featured in Artnews, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Le Soir, in Brussels.
For over 50 years, NYC Parks Art in the Parks program has brought contemporary public artworks to the city’s parks, making New York City one of the world’s largest open-air galleries. Since 1967, NYC Parks has collaborated with arts organizations and artists to produce over 2,000 public artworks by 1,300 notable and emerging artists in over 200 parks.
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