Art Outlives Politics
Seen by most as one of the nost controversial art pieces in Fremont; the sculpture of Lenin reminds us that art outlives politics— a stalwart reminder
of egregious policy not to be repeated.
One of A Kind.
Weighing over 7 tons, the
sculpture, designed by Slavic
artist Emil Venkov, took ten
years to complete and was installed in Poprad, Slovakia in 1988, only to be toppled by revolution in 1989. It is unique; we believe it is the only representation portraying Lenin surrounded by guns and flames instead of holding a book or waving his hat. The sculptor, while fulfilling the requirements of his state commission, was nevertheless able to express his vision of Lenin as a violent revolutionary, not just as an intellectual and theoretician.
History of Lenin in Fremont.
While teaching in Poland, American veteran Lewis Carpenter discovered the sculpture lying face down in the mud. Carpenter recognized the skill and craftsmanship of Venkov,
As well as the boldness of
his portrayal. Determined
to preserve the statue, Carpenter mortgaged his house to acquire it and brought it back to his home in Issaquah, Washington.
Carpenter had dreams of making the statue a centerpiece for the Slovakian restaurant he wanted to open. Instead, he died in a car accident in 1994,
leaving his debt and the disposition of the statue
to his family. They settled upon an agreement
with Fremont community representatives to site the sculpture here for the work to be seen and enjoyed, as Carpenter wished, and hopefully to find it a permanent home.
On the Move.
Originally, the sculpture came to reside in Fremont near the
northwest corner of Evanston Ave N & N 34th St (currently
the Red Door Alehouse), on a
parking lot used as overflow
for Fremont Sunday Market
vendors. Record winter
rainfall, in 1996-7, caused
the ground under the parking lot to destabilize. Structural
engineers advised the property owner that removing the 8-ton bronze paperweight would
effectively prevent a slide.
Eventually, the property would
be fully reinforced when the
Red Door located there in 2001.
Still promoting the temporary nature of the exhibit, and its future replacement with other large art works for purchase, local artists and activists convinced another property manager to allow installation of a permanent pedestal on which to display art, beginning with Lenin. Fortunately for Fremont organizers,
the Mayor of Seattle, Paul Schell, came through the neighborhood the day of the cement pour and signed his name to the pedestal
project. The 16-ft (5m) sculpture relocated to this site in 1997, awaiting a buyer.
Is Lenin for Sale?
At its original installation, in 1995, the statue carried a sign asking for $150,000, Or-Best Offer. In 2001, the price reportedly had gone up to $250,000. In 2008, the agent for the
Carpenter family reported that the price had inexplicably, increased to $300,000. Offers buy the sculpture to melt down the bronze I been refused. Still owned by Lewis Carpenter's family, the family is still considering offers for
sale and a permanent home for
this controversial piece.
Lenin - Right Or Wrong?
The mere presence of this sculpture evokes very strong
reactions. If artists seek to create emotion and reaction, Venkov and the Fremont community can claim success almost daily. Many recall the sufferings caused by Lenin's
policies, and see the statue as an affront, while others celebrate the triumph of capitalism and whimsy over Soviet oppression.
The sculpture, and its installation here, continually launches dialogues about history, art and the differences between Lenin, Stalin and John Lennon (although even when masked
with the features of the beloved Beatle, Venkov's sculpture really can't pull a resemblance.)
Lenin, even in bronze and often decorated with little regard to the dignity of a dead stator, continues to cause controversy.