That unauthorized but very well-designed butterfly statue that went up in Golden Gate Park last month could still have a future, though the SF Arts Commission says the statue would not “last long in an outdoor environment.”
When someone went and put up a rogue, unauthorized butterfly statue in Golden Gate Park on Earth Day a few weeks back, the SF Arts Commission (SFAC) took it down within a week. And removing the statue was likely the right thing to do — it had not gone through any safety review, and could have posed a public risk.
City Officials Remove Unauthorized Renegade Butterly Statue https://t.co/x01z9xfkZ9— (((BrokeAssStuart))) (@BrokeAssStuart) April 29, 2023
But we saw a few notable details in the Arts Commission's statement on the removal of the statue. That statue had been placed on the dais of the toppled Junipero Serra statue, which was torn down during the George Floyd protests to draw attention to Serra’s brutal treatment of Native Americans. The Arts Commission mentioned that the torn-down Serra statue, as well as other toppled statues, “were placed into and currently remain in secure fine arts storage.” And the commission also made a surprisingly supportive statement toward the statue of the extinct Xerces blue butterfly they’d removed, saying it “recognizes the importance of raising awareness for the protection of endangered species that face the threat of extinction and for the advocacy and conservation of wildlife and natural habitat protection.”
So is the butterfly statue also in storage? And would the Arts Commission consider re-installing it if they could make it safe and compliant? We asked them.
“The sculpture itself was beautiful and we recognize the value of public art as a means of creative expression and dialogue,” SF Arts Commission public information officer Edward Tom told SFist, adding that they took “great care for the well-being of the artwork.”
“The Extinct Xerces Blue Butterfly sculpture has been placed in secure fine arts storage,” Tom confirmed to us. “This ensures the safety and preservation of the artwork while its future is being decided.”
A new art installation that baffled and delighted visitors to Golden Gate Park for a few days has been removed. The sculpture, which depicted the extinct Xerces blue butterfly, was atop a concrete plinth that was once home to a likeness of Junípero Serra.https://t.co/sKOrE2dg76— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) May 2, 2023
So the statue does have some form of a future, but Tom pointed out “potential safety and legal issues” with its anonymous, outlaw installation. Plus he added, “It should also be noted that the sculpture did not appear to be made of permanent materials that would last long in an outdoor environment.”
“We are currently evaluating all options for the sculpture's future, taking into account SFAC policies and procedures as well as public input,” Tom said.
There will eventually be replacement statues for the toppled Junipero Serra, Francis Scott Key, and Ulysses S. Grant statues in Golden Gate Park. The SFAC told us it was still “in the process of exploring opportunities for future activations and use of these sites in partnership with local community groups and artists to provide space for and to help amplify the voices, stories and art of communities that have not been historically prioritized or represented.”
It’s well-established that there are hardly any statues of women in San Francisco, so any replacement statue ideas would likely address that. But would we ever have a statue of a non-human species, like the Xerces blue butterfly statue?
The statue was incredibly well-designed, and seemingly the work of a professional sculptor — it also came with its own plaque. Maybe it would be possible to find that sculptor, and get that person to redesign a compliant statue that met all safety requirements and got the proper approvals. But that would involve the designer of the statue coming forward, which seems dicey, considering this would be an admission of illegal activity. But hey, if you’re out there butterfly statue sculptor, our DMs are open. Let's get flying on this.
Image: SF Arts Commission