Artist Brad Downey unveiled the bronze statue on Tuesday near the small town of Sevnica in central Slovenia, where the US First Lady grew up.
Downey told CNN that he had always intended to create a bronze version of the statue to display in an institutional setting, but decided to put it in to replace the wooden sculpture after it was badly burned.
“I didn’t think it was a good ending for the artwork, I didn’t think it was a good ending for the community,” he said referring to the arson attack.
Bronze statue of US First Lady Melania Trump in her hometown of Sevenica Credit: Jure Makovec / AFP / Getty Image
Downey reported that the work was heavily supported by local residents, and he installed bronze as a “donation” to them.
The work is inspired by publicized monuments, such as those founded by Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin after the 1917 revolution, Downey said that the wood sculpture was “a monument that drew monumental criticism.”
Downey created a wooden sculpture from local conceptual artist Ales Zupevec, better known as Maxie, who was born in the same hospital as Melania in the same year.
While Zoopev was not involved in the bronze making, Downey invited him to unveil it at a ceremony on Tuesday.
The wooden statue received mixed reviews when it was unveiled in July 2019. Credit: JURE MAKOVEC / AFP / Getty Image
The local police did not know who burned the original statue, leading to speculation that Downey or his associates were responsible.
“I didn’t do that,” he told CNN. “I loved it.”
Downey emphasized that caution was taken to prevent the circulating of images of burnt idols to prevent artwork being part of political discourse around monuments in America.
“If I were, I would have let people take pictures of it.” “I removed it quickly so it didn’t enter a dark narrative.”
The artwork stands near a river near Sevenica, central Slovenia. Credit: JURE MAKOVEC / AFP / Getty Image
The burnt statue is currently displayed as part of an exhibition in the Slovenian city of Cropper, titled “F ** k Off Illusion”, which runs through the end of the month.
Downey has also installed a memorial plaque on the site in Sevenica, which features a text in both Slovenian and English and a QR code that links to a documentary filmed with Zupevec as part of the artwork.
Downey previously told CNN that he was inspired to create the piece due to what he calls an “anti-immigration narrative” coming from the US and specifically from Donald Trump.
Bronze statue of US First Lady Melania Trump in her Slovenian hometown Credit: Jure Makovec / AFP / Getty Image
He said it was a “paradox” that the US president, who made immigration the cornerstone of his presidency, married an immigrant whose first language is not English.
Sevenica is a sleepy town of 5,000, profiting from its most famous daughter, placing itself firmly on the tourist trail and selling a range of Melania-themed products including honey, chocolate and cakes.
Top image: a charming wooden statue of Melania Trump in her hometown Sevenica, Slovenia, which was replaced with bronze