Out of place in a leafy suburb of Seattle lies a 5 metre tall bronze sculpture of the famed Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. Bastion of free-market anti Communist rhetoric the USA seems an unlikely country to host a Lenin monument especially given that half way around the world the Ukrainians are tearing down any record of the man. However the Fremont neighbourhood of Seattle hosts a number of quirky art pieces and the local council believe the statue to be “a symbol of artistic spirit that outlasts regimes and ideologies” and “tangible proof that art does outlive politics”.
Guns, Flames and Another Revolution
Weighing in at over 7 tons, the sculpture was constructed by the Bulgarian sculptor, Emil Venkov. Lenin is often represented as a intellectual, educator or philosopher but Venkov applied some artistic licence with this project. Lenin can be seen surrounded by guns and flames as an attempt to express Venkov’s vision of a Lenin as a violent revolutionary. The monument was completed and displayed in Poprad, then Czechslovakia now Slovakia in 1988 a few short months before the fall of the Communist government. As the Velvet revolution swept across the country the statue was removed from the soon to be renamed Lenin Square.
An American teaching English in Poprad called Lewis Carpenter found the sculpture lying face down in a scrap yard waiting to sold for scrap. He took a liking to the skill and craftsmanship of the artist and it quickly became his mission to preserve the monument whatever the cost. Recruiting the help of a local journalist and friend Tomáš Fülöpp, the pair were able to approach city officials with an offer of $13,000 for the monument. After overcoming many logistical and administrative hurdles they were able to sign a deal and at even more expense they were able to transport it back to the USA in 1993.
What do Christmas, John Lennon and Gay Pride Have in Common?
Sadly Carpenter died in a car accident in 1994 and the statue then became the property of his family. After talks with the Fremont council they decided that the statue could be hosted in the neighbourhood fulfilling Carpenter’s wish for the work to be seen and enjoyed by the public. This is however only a temporary arrangement and the monument is currently for sale with a price tag in excess of $250,000.
Fremont is considered a quirky little artistic community with many other strange and wacky artistic projects including the Fremont Troll. This doesn’t mean the statue is universally accepted with the area of the site of protest and the monument regularly the victim of graffiti, vandalism and artistic alterations. Every year a red star and Christmas lights are hung from Lenin’s head, another time he was made to resemble John Lennon and during Gay Pride Week the statue was dressed in drag.