Temporary Queen Mary to Be Replaced with Pair in Copenhagen and STX

“I Am Queen Mary” outside the West Indian Warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“I Am Queen Mary” outside the West Indian Warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Submitted photo)

“I Am Queen Mary,” a two-story sculpture made of polystyrene, coral and bronze, standing over the Copenhagen harbor since 2018, was removed in December 2020 due to extreme weather damage. Now the artists are moving forward with a plan to replace the prototype with permanent monuments.

The artists, Jeannette Ehlers of Denmark and LaVaughn Belle of St. Croix, have always planned to erect a permanent monument to replace the prototype and they recently received permission from the Danish government to do so.

“’I Am Queen Mary’ will be a strong and lasting physical memory of a dark side of Danish history, which we must not forget – and a concrete reminder in Copenhagen’s cityscape that Denmark’s history is created by many incredibly different people, not just by kings and war heroes,” said Joy Mogensen, Danish minister of culture.

In 2018, the Danish Parliament granted $160,000 for the project if the artists could raise the remaining funds. In May, Belle and Ehlers will launch a crowd-source funding campaign. The goal is to construct a sculpture for St. Croix and another for Denmark, probably in Frederiksted, if approved, Belle said.

The fundraising goal to complete both 20-foot sculptures is $1.5 million, and already the artists have contacted foundations and prospective donors. The estimated budget should cover the cost of two monuments and the labor to produce the large art projects.

Once the goal is met, the artists hope to complete at least one of the sculptures within 12 months, according to Belle. Which project comes first depends on the differences and complications of the projects on each location. Copenhagen has given permission to install a permanent monument, whereas the process to seek approval has just begun on St. Croix – that may determine which stature is constructed first.

LaVaughn Belle speaks to a St. Croix audience about systemic racism during a June 16, 2020, rally. (Source file photo by Elisa McKay)

“This is a very complex project that will involve many people, companies, government agencies and public and private institutions. We haven’t decided where the bronze figure will be cast. It will likely be cast in Europe or the United States mainland, which will require some aspect of shipping.” Belle responded via email.

“I Am Queen Mary” was created to commemorate the shared history of Denmark and St. Croix after the 2017 Centennial and resistance to Danish colonialism in the Caribbean, according to the IamQueenMary.com website.

Queen Mary Thomas was one of the leaders of the insurrection in 1878, known as Fireburn, protesting the horrendous treatment of workers despite the abolition of slavery in 1848.

The first sculpture was started with 3D scanning technology to create a hybrid of Belle’s and Ehlers’s bodies, and then construction began. The plinth, or foundation, was made of 15 tons of coral stones shipped to Denmark from Belle’s properties on St. Croix. Then the sculpture, fabricated with a lightweight polystyrene resin and bronze was transported in parts to the location in front of the Danish West Indian warehouse in Copenhagen where it was assembled with a crane.

“We believe we will be successful in raising the amount needed based on our preliminary conversations with private foundations and the interest the project has generated worldwide,” Belle said.

More information about the project and fundraising efforts can be found on the project’s website.