The largest bronze gorilla statue in the world has arrived to New York. This morning, King Nyani (swahili for gorilla) by the artists Gillie and Marc Schattner was unveiled in Bella Abzug Park at Hudson Yards. The statue is designed to raise awareness about the endangered mountain gorilla species, of which only around 1000 remain worldwide, and to change the perception of gorillas among New Yorkers. Instead of terrorizing New York City atop the Empire State Building, this gorilla will be giving out free hugs to any willing New Yorkers. In fact, its giant hands are designed to hold 2 to 3 people at a time.
King Nyani is a continuation of a series of works by Gillie and Marc, donated to place around the world, which have highlighted endangered species as part of their initiative Love the Last. Their statues of the last three northern white rhinos were on display in Astor Place in 2018 (now only two of the rhinos remain). King Nyani is based on an actual gorilla, the head of a family of mountain gorillas that Gillie and Marc met on a trip to Uganda. It is almost 23 feet long, 8.5 feet high and weighs 4,766 pounds.
As Lauren Pelosi, who is managing the press for the sculpture told us at the unveiling today, “People usually have this idea that a gorilla is scary, it’s like King Kong, it’s monstrous. But Nyani, as you can see by his posture, he’s smiling. He’s sitting there with open arms, he’s very friendly and welcoming. According to the press release, Gillie and Marc were so “struck by the empathy and kindness on display in the gorilla family, the artists made it their goal to bring this same message of empathy to the art they were creating.” Marc says, “It was beautiful watching the silverback interacting with his family. He was so gentle and loving and clearly cared deeply for his family.” Gorillas share 98% of the human DNA and Gillie and Marc hope to show how similar these animals are to humans.
The sculpture was created in partnership with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the WWF. The sculpture was cast in Australia and shipped to New York on a crate, a journey that took a few weeks. It will be on display for 11 months to bring awareness and raise funds for the critically endangered gorilla species.
You can support the organization by going to the website Love the Last which includes opportunities to sign petitions, donate and more.