A statue of Vladimir Putin has taken residence inside a Central Park playground

In today’s “only in New York” news: a statue depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin has suddenly appeared in a playground within Central Park.

French artist James Colomina took credit for the pretty random work on Instagram. “This sculpture aims at denouncing the absurdity of war and at highlighting children’s courage when faced with violent, catastrophic situations triggered by others,” Colomina wrote on the social media platform alongside a slew of images depicting kids interacting with the statue. He also used the hashtag #stopthewar, referring to Russia’s devastating attacks on Ukraine for the past five months.

As odd as the all-red statue, which depicts Putin on a kid-sized tank with his hands tucked between his legs, seems, the theme follows Colomina’s recognizable artistic pattern. 

Throughout the years, the artist has quietly installed red statues within urban settings as a way to comment on a variety of social issues. In April, for example, he debuted a figure of a child soldier carrying a rifle that morphs into a rose in Toulouse, France. Back in January, on the other hand, he set up a sculpture of a human and a bear embracing on top of a column in the middle of Barcelona in Spain.

Before arriving in Central Park, the Putin piece appeared around the world as well: in the Luxembourg Garden in Paris and in Barcelona, for example.

Speaking to Newsweek about the specifics of the installation, Colomina revealed that he waited “until there were no more police cars and park security officers and then I quickly installed the sculpture as if it had always been there.” 

As for the message behind his work, the artist was adamant about “denouncing the absurdity of war” through the prism of children, juxtaposing Putin’s figure—and, as a result, his actions—to the play area he chose as the setting. 

“I experienced the invasion of Ukraine as a trauma,” Colomina said to the outlet. “The city I currently live in Toulouse in France is twinned with the city of Kyiv [in Ukraine]. Art, in all its forms, can be the support of a denunciation of war and its atrocities. It allows you to say things differently and participate in the duty of memory. It seems essential to me to react.”

Surprised New Yorkers naturally snapped photos alongside the fictional Putin while others took to Twitter to discuss the weird encounter.

“Art can save the word,” one user commented.

“It should be in a dog park,” another wrote.

“That’ll show him,” a third user sarcastically noted. 

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