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.

Recent Stories

This Guy was the First Customer at Trader Joe’s on the Lower East Side

People queue for anything. Here on the Lower East Side, it was for the Friday morning debut of Trader Joe’s on Grand Street. After years of hype, anticipation, and plenty of delays, the specialty grocer is finally a reality. It occupies 30,000 square-feet in the basement of The Rollins building at Essex Crossing (aka Site […]

City Council Holds Public Hearing Today on ‘Small Business Jobs Survival Act’

After languishing for over thirty years, a lifeline might be thrown to struggling small business owners. City Council later today is holding a public hearing for the polarizing Small Business Jobs Survival Act. Only in the last couple years has the forsaken legislation gained traction, owed in large part to the #SaveNYC grassroots campaign founded […]

The Bowery Lighting District Just Lost its Biggest Store, Lighting by Gregory

The Bowery Lighting District is reeling after losing its biggest store. Lighting by Gregory – located between Kenmare and Broome Streets for decades – faded from the landscape last week. The business shuttered, leaving behind multiple storefronts at 156-158 Bowery for the take. Apparently the company is in the throes of Bankruptcy filing, and the […]

When the Rear Garden Grows the 28-Story Public Hotel

For the last year, 215 Chrystie Street has been the address of Ian Schrager’s posh Public Hotel (and condos). Before the 28-story development, though, this city parcel was the rear yard, and garden, for the Thelma Burke building on Stanton Street. The New York Times just published a new feature, “How a Garden for the […]

Founded on the Lower East Side, B’nai Brith Celebrates 175 Years

The oldest Jewish service organization in the world began here on the Lower East Side, and this year celebrates a major milestone. B’nai Brith International (“Sons of the Covenant”) – now in its 175th year – was founded on Essex Street in October 1843 by a dozen immigrants of German-Jewish descent. Of course, at that […]