Pictured: LEFT – ‘African Culture’ carving of a person, 2021; RIGHT – Roman culture Pont du Guard aqueduct, AD 450
The Sunday Times:
Oracle ‘African Culture’ sculpture in NY City has drawn mixed reactions. But is it misunderstood or offensive?
A huge new bronze sculpture welcoming visitors to the Rockefeller Center in New York, has garnered confusion and questions online over its representation of “African culture” and its symbolism.
The 7.6m tall black “Oracle” with a huge head joins murals, flags and videos at the venue, all created by African American artist Sanford Biggers, whose artwork also includes music and performance.
The seated figure is part of the Harlem-based artist’s “Chimera” series of sculptures that combines African masks and European figures to explore mythologies of those cultures.
“I’ve always been intrigued by Rockefeller Center for its architectural history and mythological references,” Biggers said in a statement, calling the Art Deco-styled venue “an ideal context for myth creation”.
Biggers said he decided to name the centrepiece “Oracle” because of his intrigue with oracles “throughout antiquity”.
In later weeks, an interactive feature will be added to the sculpture, where viewers can “consult” the Oracle and get direct responses to their queries.
While Biggers’s latest artwork has won some praise for being “provocative”, the sculpture has also attracted criticism online over its interpretation of African mythology and “culture”.