Saving the Throne of Nezahualcoyotl

The first sculpture by Sebastian that left Mexico was a gift of the nation to Vancouver, Canada, and placed in VanDusen Botanical Garden.  It was a red enameled steel sculpture in the form of a chair about 6 feet high.  Over the years, as my wife and I would visit VanDusen I would check on the chair and found that it was rusting badly and needed repair.  For several years I brought the condition of the sculpture to the administration of VanDusen but was brushed off.

At a ceremony celebrating the repainting of the Korean Pavilion in the park I met the head of the Park Board of Vancouver.  I asked him to sell me Sebastian’s sculpture and offered him $10,000 for it.  He was really put out and angrily responded “We do not sell our sculptures.”  I responded, “No, you just let them rot and do nothing to maintain them.” He stormed off, really pissed.

Then VanDusen got a new Director and I went to him to plead my case for the repair of Sebastian’s sculpture.  He agreed something needed to be done but he had no funds to do so.  I went to the Consul General of Mexico in Vancouver and asked him for $5,000 to repair and repaint the sculpture which he agreed to give to Sculpture Northwest to do the job.  Then came the problem of getting the sculpture across the border as the Park Board did not want the sculpture to leave the country.  The new Director said “The hell with the paperwork” and loaded the sculpture in his pick-up truck and drove it across the border to Bellingham without permission or paperwork.

Around that time I was in Mexico City and while having lunch with Sebastian and Gabriela I told him how badly rusted the sculpture was.  He said he would make a new one with double the steel thickness and asked that I take the measure of each element in the chair and send it to him.  I asked him what he was going to do with the old chair and he asked “Do you want it?”  I answered “Hell, yes.”  He responded “Then it is yours.” And put out his hand to shake on the decision.  That was it.  I never got any paperwork on the sculpture, no title, nothing, but it was mine.  Once I cleaned it up, repaired some of the worst damage, and repainted it I, in turn, offered to give it to the Korean War Orphanage museum and hostel in Gwangju, Korea.  They agreed to pay the shipping and off it went to Korea. The new one was put on the back of the Park Director’s truck and taken to VanDusen where it is now installed.