The statue is a part of an art installation sponsored by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey featuring the flags of G20 countries—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States—as candy with their respective flags as the wrappers
Created by French Artist Laurence Jenkell, the “Candy Nations” exhibit was originally commissioned in 2011 ahead of the G20 summit in Cannes, France, and was supported by “companies and organisations including the Chanel Foundation, the International Olympic Committee and Coca-Cola,” according to Port Authority.
The “Candy Nations” exhibit was in display in New York’s Garment District Alliance’s Art on the Plazas programme before its display on the World Trade Centre campus.
Soon after the exhibit was displayed on the World Trade Centre, complaints about the Saudi Arabian flag’s presence near the tragic site started flooding Twitter.
“I personally think the Saudi ‘flag’ candy display shows very poor judgement and a lack of empathy on the part of the Port Authority,” Terry Strada, the chair of the 9/11 Families for Justice umbrella group, told BuzzFeed News.
The 9/11 Families for Justice was instrumental in the adoption of the 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which allowed the Arabian Kingdom to be sued in American court for its citizens role in the 9/11 attacks. Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers behind the 2001 terrorism attack were Saudi Arabians associated with Al-Qaeda. The other hijackers included two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and another from Lebanon.
Ms Strada also contacted Port Authority to express disappointment in the statue’s appearance nearby the World Trade Centre.
Ms Jenkell, the artist of the piece, told BuzzFeed News she never sparked outrage from the installation that she had faced in New York. The “Candy Nations” exhibit was displayed in 25 countries around the world.
“Given the unique and justified sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Centre, it came to my mind to propose to remove the sculpture showcasing the flag of Saudi Arabia, or relocate it to a less sensitive location,” Ms Jenkell said. “But there is no way I can do such a thing as the flag of Saudi Arabia is entirely part of the G20 just like any other candy flag of this Candy Nations show. And G20 is all about that: Peace, Unity and Love among mankind. Exactly [the] same meaning as my candy flags sculptures bringing joy and happiness to everyone on earth.”
Instead of removing the Saudi flag from the exhibit, the Port Authority decided on Monday to move the entire exhibit from the World Trade Centre campus. The exhibit will be on display at John F Kennedy International Airport in the near future.
“We have been in contact with the 9/11 Memorial and various stakeholders, and in full collaboration with the artist will relocate the exhibit from its current location,” the Port Authority told BuzzFeed in a statement. “We believe this solution respects the unique sensitivities of the site and preserves the artistic integrity of the exhibit.”