NEW YORK, NY – The Talking Statues project, which brings together internationally acclaimed authors and actors to give voice to carefully selected statues worldwide, will launch in New York at New-York Historical Society’s West 77th Street entrance July 12 at 11 am. The project will feature 35 statues throughout the city’s five boroughs that share stories via smartphones..
The statues outside New York Historical Society Museum will also be talking on the 12th of July
The launch will include live performances by William Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, and Giovanni da Verrazzano as well as a special performance by the statue of Frederick Douglass outside the Museum. Speakers include David Peter Fox, project originator and producer; Margi Hofer, vice president and museum director, New York Historical Society; Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Art and Antiquities, NYC Parks
In the making of Talking Statues New York, it is has been increasingly important to recognize the artistic value of the statues in the city. Not only is it important to recognize those depicted through the statues and monuments, but also acknowledging the stories of how these statues were commissioned, created and erected in the city. Each statue has an exciting story detailing both why it was erected, and about the artist that made it possible. By giving voice to these monuments, we would like to bring attention to their status as art that punctuates our city streets. We would like to revitalize art in the public space and give passers-by a chance to experience the extra dimension of historical art: the people and the stories behind the marble in the hope that New Yorkers will build a stronger, deeper connection with their city, and draw new attention to these historical works.
Talking Statues started in Copenhagen in 2013 by documentary filmmaker David Peter Fox. While taking his children through the King’s Garden, Fox was fascinated by the stories behind the statues, and he tried to think of a way to best communicate this to the public. His original idea was to make small films about each statue but then decided the statues should tell their own stories. In September 2013 Talking Statues debuted its first talking statue of fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen in Copenhagen’s King’s Garden. It was a huge success, and the project expanded to cities such as Helsinki, London, San Diego, Berlin, and Chicago.
“It is so exciting to see this project that I started in Copenhagen launch in New York,” says Fox. “I hope New Yorkers will enjoy it and that the statues will never stop talking.”
The core idea of New York’s Talking Statues is to recreate multi-faceted voices that reflect the city’s cultural richness. The project emphasizes the uniqueness of the many different nationalities that shaped New York City. Bestselling authors and playwrights like George W. Saunders, Jean Kwok, Terry McMillian, Wendy MacLeod and Marc Acito, along with 24 celebrated European actors including Mads Mikkelsen, Jan Tríska, Jakob Oftebro, and David Dencik, have given life to the New York statues.
“With 800 languages spoken, New York is the most diverse city in the world,” says Fox. “I want to celebrate diversity with the project by making the statues speak many languages.” Besides English, the statues will also speak Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Greek, depending on which historical figure or event is celebrated. Near each statue will be a sign with a QR code; visitors can scan the code or visit a website to choose their preferred language. A pre-recorded speech will play from their smartphone, typically lasting 90 seconds. People who do not have a QR reader app can download it for free.
David’s background is one reason he wanted to bring Talking Statues to New York. His grandmother Bertha Fox came to the U.S. in 1922 from the Ukraine. Her autobiography is part of the book My Future is in America (New York University Press, 2006). She lived in the Bronx, where she raised two children. Now her grandchildren are residents of New York City with their own unique stories.