A giant bust of George Floyd’s head that was displayed in Flatbush and Union Square earlier this year, and was vandalized in both locales, is heading to the auction house, and proceeds will go toward bettering police-community relations.
The 6-foot-tall, 500-pound wooden bust of Floyd, whose murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin catalyzed a worldwide movement against police brutality, will be open to bids at Sotheby’s from Thursday, Dec. 9 until Friday, Dec. 17. Bidding is starting at $90,000, and Sotheby’s expects the bust to sell for between $100,000 to $150,000.
The bust was sculpted by artist Chris Carnabuci and financed by the social justice-oriented art collective Confront Art, which hoped to take the statue on a nationwide tour. That tour didn’t happen, however, after it was defaced while on display at Flatbush Junction in June and at Union Square in October.
In Flatbush, the bust was spray painted with the insignia of white supremacist group Patriot Front just two days after its unveiling, while at Union Square, a skateboarding vandal (later identified as actor Micah Beals) splattered the bust with silver paint, three days after its unveiling.
“I wasn’t surprised that it happened, but I was frustrated that it would happen, that people didn’t open their eyes to realize what was the purpose of this,” said Terrence Floyd, George’s Brooklyn-based brother and founder of the We Are Floyd Foundation, in an interview with Brooklyn Paper. “It clearly states that hate really still resides in a few people, not everyone, but a few people. And basically, what we’re telling the world, as far as We Are Floyd, we’re not gonna stop sowing love, because that’s what’s gonna conquer all this hate.”
Lindsay Eshelman, one of the founders of Confront Art, said that the statue had been refurbished after the defacement, and is now “pretty much in pristine condition and ready to go.”
Proceeds from the auction will go to the We Are Floyd Foundation, which Terrence Floyd says works to foster better relations between police and communities of color along with promoting financial literacy and mental health care in Black and brown communities. Specifically, Terrence hopes that the proceeds from the auction can help the foundation acquire housing for its operations.
The bust may also still go on a nationwide tour even after the auction if the new owner is amenable to loaning it back to Confront Art, though the collective says that that will be at the discretion of the ultimate purchaser.
Carnabuci’s bust was based on a design by California-based father-and-son sculptors Daniel and Rodman Edwards, who designed the bust soon after Floyd’s death and posted the model online for anyone to use for free under a Creative Commons license, hoping people across the country and world would use their model to memorialize Floyd and fight for racial justice. The Edwardses have been locked in a dispute for months with Confront Art, which they say violated their only licensing condition, namely credit for their work; they say Confront Art is misrepresenting the work as that of Carnabuci and minimizing or erasing the contribution of the Edwardses.
“The license agreement explicitly states that we are supposed to be credited for our work,” Daniel Edwards told Brooklyn Paper. “This is an agreement they have broken.”
The Edwardses are credited on Confront Art’s website and their names were on the bust when it was displayed in Flatbush, but they objected when their names were replaced by a QR code during its display in Union Square, which he claimed not only erased their contribution on the piece itself, but also in its media coverage (including in Brooklyn Paper), social media campaign, and in professional photos. Edwards said that he has no issue with Confront Art selling the work, though his son Rodman is against it.
Confront Art said in response that they used the model for free just as advertised, and that a dispute over credit overshadowed the good work that the Floyd statue is meant to bring about.
“Our goal is clear, and we’re not in this for ego or anything like that,” said Andrew Cohen, another co-founder of Confront Art. “This is a self-funded project that we paid for, so again, to me, anyone who has an issue is not looking at the big picture and is thinking about it wrong.”
Edwards said that the big picture was providing the model for free so that anyone could use it, and pursue racial justice through art, and that other artists had provided adequate credit. “I was hoping they would do well because it is our work,” he said. “We just never thought they would try to erase us from our contribution to the BLM movement.”
Also up for auction is a bust of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky home two months before Floyd’s death. The bust of Taylor was also crafted by Carnabuci based on a model by the Edwardses, and the statue up for auction has been re-envisioned by Nigerian artist Laolu. Sotheby’s expects it to fetch up to $30,000.
The proceeds will go to the Breonna Taylor Foundation; Confront Art said that at present, the revenue is expected to support the Taylor family’s legal bills in its lawsuit against the Louisville Police.