Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

Atlas Shrugged

The Art Deco-style giant bronze of Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, caused quite a stir when it was installed in 1937. First of all, the 45 foot tall sculpture was said to bear a striking resemblance to the Facist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. After the artist, Lee Lawrie, convinced public opinion that he was not a Mussolini sympathizer, then the Archbishop of St Patrick’s Cathedral, directly across the street, came calling.
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The Archbishop was concerned that after his sermon, his parishioners would be confused, as they exited the cathedral and were confronted with a giant nearly-nude, “pagan”sculpture of a Greek titan (at nearly four stories high, Atlas was pretty unavoidable).

Lawrie, the ever clever architectural sculptor, anticipated the Archbishop’s chagrin. Easing his mind, he asked the Archbishop to take a walk around the backside of Atlas. Framing the doors of the cathedral across the street, Atlas takes on a symbol of Christianity- and is transformed into Jesus on the Cross.
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Atlas was also adopted by Ayn Rand, used on the cover of her best seller Atlas Shrugged, and adopted as a symbol by her following, the Objectivists.

Who: Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan

What: Atlas

Where: 630 Fifth Avenue, main entrance forecourt

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