As complaints about Wings of the City exhibit surface, Greenville defends sculptures

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Eight lifelike sculptures of men in downtown Greenville are drawing criticism from some, as others rally to the defense of the “Wings of the City” exhibit. The exhibit is a six-month installation of nine pieces by a world-renowned Mexican artist, according to the city of Greenville.

Winged men, some wearing beaked masks, balance on balls in downtown Greenville.

“I’m fascinated,” said Greenville resident Katie Nall.

For some onlookers like Nall, the sculptures inspire.

“[They] kind of remind me of some Michaelangelo a little bit. The [definition] of the veins and his hands and arms…and just the way they’re sitting…it’s beautiful,” she said.

Others are left feeling disturbed. Greenville County Councilman Joe Dill said people from all over the county have complained to him about the exhibit.

“They say that it had nudity and also demonic expression to it,” Dill said.

The monumental sculptures were installed in Falls Park and by the Peace Center in April in a partnership between the city and the Hispanic Alliance. City spokesperson Beth Brotherton said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It has been phenomenal…when we even put up the teaser, it was one of the biggest social media responses we’ve ever gotten,” Brotherton said.

Not everyone is happy about the exhibit. More than 900 people have signed a petition started three weeks ago calling on the city and exhibit sponsors to remove the eight sculptures. The petition calls the sculptures of men “unacceptable,” and says, “we don’t want statutes of naked men to be part of our daily life.”

Dill told 7News the complaints contributed to Greenville County Council voting against a recommended $7,500 grant to the Hispanic Alliance to promote the exhibit.

“I’m not an art critic…all I know is the pictures that I saw led me to believe it’s not something I’d want to put county tax money into,” he said.

The city stands by the exhibit, and others have also come to the exhibit’s defense, with more than 2,900 signing a petition started this week that urges city leaders and exhibit sponsors to keep the statutes, saying the people of Greenville deserve to share art and culture in public places.

“We’ve got a nine member Arts and Public Places Commission…they approved this,” Brotherton said. “City Council approved of this. We had dozens of big sponsors, Michelin, BMW, Bank of America…they all signed off.”

According to Brotherton, the statutes have been set to remain in place from April to October and will not be removed earlier.

According to the Wings of the City GVL website, the exhibit has previously been displayed in California, Texas and Colorado. Greenville is the first East Coast city to host the exhibit.

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