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When a Gorilla sculpture lands in Hudson Yards, does anyone care?

A woman poses for a photo in the hand of King Nyani, a four-and-a-half ton bronze sculpture of a silverback mountain gorilla that has been placed in Bella Abzug Park in Hudson Yards AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey

Just as New York City’s major museums are reopening, returning some much-missed collections and exhibitions to public view, a new work of eye-catching art has been installed in Hudson Yards that is sure to grab people’s attention if not critical approval. Titled King Nyani, after the Swahili word for gorilla, the monumental bronze sculpture (the world’s largest!) of a coyly reclining silverback is meant to raise awareness about the endangered species. The artists Gillie and Marc Schattner were inspired to create the work, part of their Love The Last project, after seeing a family of gorillas in Uganada.

And like the more famous—and intimidating—Manhattan ape King Kong, the sculpture can apparently hold “two to three humans” in its massive outstretched hand. “We wanted to create a sculpture where the public could really get close to the silverback, both physically and emotionally,” Gillie says of the work. “Being able to sit in his hand and look up to into his gentle face we hope they will fall in love and join the movement to save the gorillas.”

A range of happy visitors from children to construction workers have already been spotted climbing into the statue’s odd embrace—but not everyone is an instant fan. A few months ago, the artists shared on Instagram that they were “DEVASTATED” after the New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz commented on a post saying they were among the “Top 10 Worst Artists in the World”. No word yet on what he thinks of their newest offering, but when the pair unveiled a towering stack of rhino sculptures in Astor Place in 2018, Saltz described the work as "a kitschy monstrosity".