Artist Brad Downey unveiled the bronze statue on Tuesday near Sevnica, the small town in central Slovenia where the first American lady grew up.
Downey told CNN that he had always intended to make a bronze version of the statue for exhibition in an institutional setting, but decided to put it to replace the wooden sculpture after it was badly burned.
“I did not think it was a good ending for the work of art, I did not think it was a good ending for society,”
The wooden statue received mixed reviews when it was unveiled in July 2019. Credit: JURE MAKOVEC / AFP / Getty Images
Downey explained that the locals had been very supportive of the work and he had installed the bronze as a “donation” to them.
The work is inspired by propaganda monuments, such as those installed by Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin after the 1917 revolution, Downey said, saying the wooden sculpture was “a monument that criticized monumentalism.”
Downey commissioned the wooden sculpture from local conceptual artist Ales Zupevc, better known as Maxi, who was born in the same hospital and same year as Melania.
While Zupevc was not involved in the making of the bronze, Downey invited him to reveal it at a ceremony Tuesday.
The charred wooden statue of Melania Trump, made by Slovenian conceptual artist Ales ‘Maxi’ Zupevc Credit: Jure Makovec / AFP / Getty Images
Local police did not find out who burned the original sculpture, leading to speculation that Downey or his staff were responsible.
“I did not,” he told CNN. “I loved it.”
Downey stressed that he had been careful to prevent images of the burnt sculpture from circulating to prevent the artwork from becoming part of the political discourse surrounding monuments in the United States.
“If I had been, I would have let people take pictures of it,” he said. “I removed it quickly so it didn’t get into a dark narrative.”
The burnt statue is currently on display as part of an exhibition in the Slovenian town of Kroper entitled “F ** k Off Illusion”, which runs until the end of the month.
Downey has also installed a memorial plaque on the site in Sevnica with text in both Slovenian and English and a QR code linking to the documentary he filmed with Zupevc as part of the artwork.
Downey previously told CNN that he was inspired to create the play because of what he called the “anti-immigration narrative” coming out of the United States and especially from Donald Trump.
A bronze statue of American First Lady Melania Trump in her hometown of Sevnica Credit: Jure Makovec / AFP / Getty Images
He said it was a “contradiction” that the US president, who has made immigration a cornerstone of his presidency, is married to an immigrant whose first language is not English.
Sevnica is a sleepy town of 5,000 that has benefited from its most famous daughter, settles on the tourist trail and sells a range of Melania-themed products, including honey, chocolate and cake.
Top image: The charred wooden statue of Melania Trump in her hometown of Sevenica, Slovenia, which was replaced with the bronze