While the rest of the world is taking statues down, the Latvian capital Riga has just put one up—a six-metre-high sculpture of a masked medical worker by the artist Aigars Bikse, positioned in a prominent spot in front of the National Museum of Art.
The work, Medic for the World, honours the doctors and nurses who have worked tirelessly and at great personal risk during the coronavirus pandemic. It will be on display for seven months.
Latvia has escaped the pandemic relatively unscathed, recording just over 1,000 coronavirus cases and 30 deaths so far. The government announced a lockdown in March.
“Like everyone I was a bit stuck in my projects and a bit frightened,” Bikse says. “I couldn’t think about my solo show. I moved to the country with my family. In Riga, people were clapping on the streets, but here there was no one to clap to, so this was my way of clapping for the medics.”
Bikse says he won support from about 20 sponsors to help finance the statue. “So many people supported it,” he says. “As an artist, it’s not always that easy.” He believes that the response to his project indicates the level of public support there now is in the country for medical workers.
“Nurses are very badly paid in Latvia and not many young people want to go into this profession,” he says. “We hope that with this we can help to change attitudes towards medical workers.”