‘Candy Nations’ series sparks controversy in NYC

‘Candy Nations’ series sparks controversy in NYC
'Candy Nations' on exhibit in NYC's garment district in October. Created by Laurence Jenkell in 2011. Courtesy The Garment District.
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A sculptural installation in New York City is causing controversy due to its content and proximity to Ground Zero. Candy Nations, created by French artist Laurence Jenkell in 2011 for the G20 Summit in Cannes, features 20 nine-foot tall sculptures of wrapped candy weighing in around 1,450 pounds each. The wrapper for each showcases a glossy interpretation of the flag for each nation (and the EU) that makes up the G20. The artist created the series to ‘celebrate mankind’ and in October of last year, Candy Nations was installed in the City’s Garment District to celebrate NYC as a global capital and world city.

In December, the shiny candy series was unveiled as the first art shown at the new World Trade Centre by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Meant to remain at the new World Trade Centre through February 28th, Candy Nation’s most recent location has been the spark for criticism – specifically from families and individuals affected by the 9/11 terrorists attack on the World Trade Centres in 2001. This is much in part due to the inclusion of Saudi Arabia’s green flag as one of the candy sculptures. For context, 15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi though the kingdom has denied any part in the attack. Thus, many hold Saudi Arabia partially responsible for the attacks and see the art installation as insensitive.

In response to the complaints and public outcry, the Ports Authority confirmed it will be moving Candy Nations to JFK International Airport. ‘We have been in contact with the 9/11 Memorial and various stakeholders, and in full collaboration with the artist will relocate the exhibit from its current location,’ a spokesperson for the Port Authority told BBC News. ‘We believe this solution respects the unique sensitivities of the site and preserves the artistic integrity of the exhibit.’

The move may alleviate some concerns but others still seem to exist. In a statement, 16 families affected by the 2001 attacks voiced their concerns about the installation and its move from the new World Trade Center to the airport saying:

‘The Port Authority is apparently now taking the right action this week by removing the sculpture from the plaza at Ground Zero. Its apparent plan to relocate the exhibit to JFK International Airport is questionable as well, for obvious reasons. But surely the sculpture should be nowhere near the site of this mass murder.’

To date, Jenkell’s G20 themed installation has exhibited in over 25 countries. When the installation was set to relocate to NYC’s new World Trade Center, she said she did consider removing the country from the series. She chose not to stating that ‘Saudi Arabia is entirely part of the G20 just like any other candy flag of this Candy Nations show.’ According to BBC News, the artist is ‘deeply disturbed and saddened’ concerning the reception of her installation specifically ‘given the reverence [Jenkell has] for this sacred site that embodies resilience even more than any other place in the world.’ The artist continued: ‘I support the families who have lost a loved one and I associate with their grief and pain.’