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.
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.
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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