Fernando Sánchez Castillo (b. 1970)
Sketch for Liberty
It wasn’t easy to decide which work to buy at Sánchez Castillo’s show at the Tegenboschvanvreden gallery. There were several works suitable for purchase. This mainly has to do with Sánchez Castillo’s ability to tell an alternate version of a familiar story.
The desire to write an alternative art history is a very topical theme. All over the world, museum Halls of Honour showing art highlights, are radically altered. Long‑marginalised female artists are now prominently featured and the “white” canon of art history is finally becoming less white. Consciously or unconsciously, Sánchez Castillo contributes to this. A potential purchase was his female version of Rodin’s world-famous Thinker. An infinite number of funny variations have already been made of the sculpture, sometimes even taking a comic book form. What we hadn’t seen before, though, was the obvious yet simple female variant of the Thinker. It would have been a nice addition to an office where many women have been employed for a long time, women who stood their ground in challenging roles, something the archaic Dutch saying refers to as “showing manliness”.
Lady Liberty – another sculpture that is recognised by people of all ages – has enormous social and political connotations. The Statue of Liberty welcomed millions of new Americans who mostly fled from war, famine or persecution. The statue will always remain associated with this. Sánchez Castillo has delved into recent research that shows that the connotations of immigration were only linked to the famous monument at a later stage. The statue was made in the period shortly after the Civil War, America’s largest internal conflict that was roughly centred on the slavery issue. Sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi was a convinced Abolitionist, who had chosen a dark-skinned or Egyptian woman as a model for the first sketches of the statue, with a (slave) chain rather than a law book in her left hand. As far as Bartholdi was concerned, Liberty was going to represent the liberation of American slaves.
With this sculpture, Sánchez Castillo attempts to create a work of art that honours Bartholdi’s original intention and that pays homage to the current zeitgeist of Black Lives Matter. In the case of Sánchez Castillo, the usage of this theme is no opportunism as a clear social commitment has always played a role in his oeuvre.
This sculpture is the original version, the mould from which Sánchez Castillo later cast bronze Lady Liberties, and, in that sense, this is a unique work. The artist thoughtfully donated some of the sketches for his work Lady Liberty to the Allen & Overy collection – if only to ensure that the casual viewer does not overlook the point the artist wants to make.