Chinatown Rails Against Proposed ‘Dogman’ Sculpture Ahead of Lunar New Year

Posted on: February 15th, 2018 at 5:00 am by

Kimlau Square

With the lunar Year of the Dog just a day out, some in the Chinatown community are incensed about the so-called “Dogman” sculpture planned for Kimlau Square.

The proposal, designed by artists Gillie and Marc and backed by the Chinatown Partnership, calls for a 900-lb, bronze dapper dog holding an apple. Community Board 3 last week heard the proposal but no vote was necessary as these Parks Department presentations are informational.

Meanwhile, an online petition surfaced on Tuesday that opposes the Dogman’s placement in Kimlau Square, calling it an affront to the Chinese war hero. It already boasts nearly 400 signatures. (You’ll also recall that the former principals behind Webster Hall also tried to capitalize on Kimlau two years ago.)

It appears opposition to the statue was heard, though. The Chinatown Partnership – instrumental in bringing the public art project to this part of the Bowery – appears to have backed away from the project. Today’s scheduled unveiling has been postponed indefinitely, according to a Facebook alert.

“When I saw the picture of sculpture of a western dog in a suit holding a big red apple, first thing that struck me was I’ve seen similar dogs in sporting goods stores,” Chinatown activist Karlin Chan tells us. “I thought a Chinese breed like a Shar-Pei, Pekingese, or Shi-Tzu dressed in traditional Chinese outfit either holding a pail of gold coins from its jaws or sitting up on hind legs holding a gold tael would be more fitting to commemorate a Chinese holiday.”

A more appropriate dog

Chan argues that this is just another instance illustrating the whitewashing of Chinatown, thanks in part to complicity by the area business improvement district. “There has been enough outrage over Hollywood whitewashing Asian roles with non-Asian actors, and this is right up that alley. Once again the Chinatown Partnership failed to do outreach before commissioning this statue.”

Below is the text of the petition in full:

The Chinatown Business Improvement District and NYC Parks Dept. have announced they will place a sculpture of a ‘Dog-Man’ at Chatham Square under the Arch named for Lt. Benjamin R. Kimlau who died in WWII while serving in the U.S. military. The Arch honors all U.S. Service members of Chinese descent who fought and died serving the country.

This insulting image of a ‘Dog-Man’ has no place next to this sacred and solemn community site where we honor our community heroes.

Moreover, there are 3 commemorative statues in Chinatown. Adjacent to the Arch is the statue of of Minister Lin Zexu, a 19th-century Chinese official who banned opium. Nearby, the statue of the sage Confucius whose philosophy is a pillar of our culture. And in local Columbus Park is Sun Yat Sen, Father & Founder of Modern China.

Equating this ‘Dog-Man’ with these other cultural heroes is deeply offensive.

This is especially offensive in light of the long history of degrading caricatures of Chinese as ‘dogeaters’ in American popular culture.

This statue of a man with a doghead holding a red apple does not respectfully reflect our Chinese American community or culture.

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