NEW YORK — A statue of a giant piece of candy with the Saudi Arabian flag on the wrapper will be moved off the grounds of the World Trade Center later this week after complaints about its presence near the site of the September 11 attacks.
The statue is part of an art installation sponsored by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey featuring the flags of the G20 countries — which include Saudi Arabia — created by French artist Laurence Jenkell. Originally commissioned in 2011 ahead of the G20's summit in Cannes, France, the exhibit, called "Candy Nations," was supported by "companies and organizations including the Chanel Foundation, the International Olympic Committee and Coca-Cola," according to a Port Authority press release.
Before making its way to the World Trade Center campus, the exhibit was already on display in New York as part of the Garment District Alliance's Art on the Plazas program.
Last week, the New York Observer published a story about the Saudi flag's presence after complaints began to surface on Twitter.
Terry Strada, the chair of an umbrella group for 9/11 victims' families, told BuzzFeed News, "I personally think the Saudi 'flag' candy display shows very poor judgment and a lack of empathy on the part of the Port Authority." Her group, 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, successfully pressed for the adoption of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act in 2016, allowing Saudi Arabia to be sued in US court for its citizens' roles in the September 11 attacks.
Soon after being reached by BuzzFeed News, Strada contacted the Port Authority and made her displeasure known.
Jenkell, the artist who created the piece, told BuzzFeed News that she had never encountered the sort of uproar the installation has faced in New York when it was on display in 25 countries around the world.
"Given the unique and justified sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center, 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," she wrote on Thursday. "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."
By Monday, the Port Authority had opted to move the entire exhibit rather than remove the Saudi statue alone.
"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 said in an email to BuzzFeed News. "We believe this solution respects the unique sensitivities of the site and preserves the artistic integrity of the exhibit."
The full exhibit will instead be on display at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the near future.