In 2010, Danh Vo decided to create an exact replica of the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s sculpture Liberty Enlightening the World from 1886, commonly known as the Statue of Liberty. This became the sculptural project We the People (detail) – a 1:1 reproduction of one of the world’s best-known icons. Vo chose not to assemble the statue, leaving it instead as more than 300 copper components that will remain separate, put on display in different locations around the world. With the donation from the New Carlsberg Foundation, one of the pieces will now be included in the permanent collection at the Guggenheim.

A familiar left hand

The work is a reproduction of the statue’s left hand. While many of the other pieces in the series appear as almost abstract forms, this particular detail is recognizable. Bartholdi’s Liberty holds a tablet in her hand inscribed with the date of the American Declaration of Independence. Vo’s empty copper hand rests on a visible wooden support, inviting the beholder to reflect on the symbolic value of the statue. It encourages the beholder to consider the concept of ‘freedom’ and the inevitable fragility that is one of the consequences when a single object is imbued with profound significance.

A fragmented global symbol

With the sculptural project We The People (detail) Vo has taken a familiar icon and altered its expression through his own artistic practice. He has given the beholder an opportunity to experience the Statue of Liberty up close and thus introduces new, more work-oriented perspectives on the statue. What happens when something that is so well-known is broken down, the parts exhibited separately as fragmented components? In We The People (detail), the symbolic value of the Statue of Liberty is broken down into smaller elements, and the beholder is encouraged to consider the concept of freedom and the now-fragmented icon: the Statue of Liberty.

Exhibition and catalogue

The work formed a key element of Danh Vo’s retrospective exhibition Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away at the Guggenheim Museum in New York that ran from 9 February through 9 May 2018. In connection with the exhibition, the New Carlsberg Foundation funded an extensive catalogue that is the first academic monograph on Vo’s work.

This autumn, the exhibition Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away is presented at the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen. The exhibition was designed in cooperation with the Guggenheim and will be the most extensive exhibition of Danh Vo’s work in Denmark to date.

About Danh Vo

Danh Vo (b. 1975, Vietnam) grew up in Denmark and trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and the Städelschule in Frankfurt. Today, he lives and works mainly in Berlin and Mexico City. Vo represented Denmark at the 2015 Venice Biennale and has held large solo exhibitions in museums around the world, including the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Artist Space in New York, Kunsthalle Basel and Museo Jumex in Mexico City.