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Who wants to display the King Louis XVI statue? So far, no one

The King Louis XVI statue in downtown Louisville.
Stephanie Wolf
The King Louis XVI statue in downtown Louisville.

Louisville officials say they’ve offered a statue of King Louis XVI of France to “a number of local and regional cultural institutions,” but so far none are willing to take it.

The more than 200-year-old marble statue stood near Louisville Metro Hall on West Jefferson Street from 1967 until 2020, when it was vandalized during racial justice protests. It was removed that September with city officials citing concern over the deteriorating condition of the statue.

At a recent Metro Council committee meeting, Public Art Administrator Jessica Bennett Kincaid said the weight of the statue, along with its towering height of about 12 feet, has made it difficult to find a new home for King Louis.

“It’s not for lack of trying to find an alternate venue to host the object,” she said. “Not many buildings are designed to have reinforced floors to hold a nine-ton object.”

The statue remains in a city-owned storage facility, still covered in spray paint and without one of its hands.

There’s enough funding to make the repairs, Kincaid told the committee. But a recent recent appraisal showed repairing the statue would cost around $211,000, more than triple its market value, she said.

“There were previous appropriations in previous year’s budgets for the King Louis statue,” she said. “It’s a matter of weighing the cost of the object against the cost of repair.”

And without knowing where the statue will return to public display, Kincaid said city officials didn’t think footing the bill for repairs was a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

Still, some Metro Council members are urging the city to fix the King Louis statue and put it back on public display.

Council Members Stuart Benson and Kevin Kramer, both Republicans, said they feel there are political considerations even though they think residents are open to it coming back.

Benson, who represents far southeastern District 20, said officials should put the statue back up outside Metro Hall, instead of spending more time on finding a new home. He thinks that has to do with officials “wanting to redo history.”

“Why can’t we put it back like it is and put a sign underneath it: ‘During tumultuous times, we damaged this?’” he said. “It’s history.”

After decades outside, the King Louis statue was damaged and would be safer displayed indoors, three historic preservation consultants hired by Louisville Metro last year said.

Benson and Kramer said public arts officials should find out if the statue could receive some sort of protective coating on the statue that would allow it to go back up outdoors.

Kramer, who represents the southeastern District 11, also accused officials of not actually wanting to put the King Louis statue on public display again.

“If we refuse to fix it, that’s basically a way of saying we don’t intend to put it back out,” Kramer said. “If we fixed it, we’re sure going to find a place to put it because why would you spend that much money fixing it if you weren’t going to put it back?”

District 9 Council Member Andrew Owen, a Democrat who represents an area east of downtown, said he also objected to the idea of “putting art in a closet” without exploring all possible options to get it back in front of the public.

Kincaid said the Office of Arts and Creative Industries would explore placing the statue at the Kentucky Center for Performing Arts or the downtown convention center, two locations recommended by Metro Council.

She said the city also plans to explore what might go in King Louis’ place in front of Metro Hall, which would include "significant community engagement."

Correction: A previous version of the story misstated the city's plans for determining what to put in the space King Louis XVI occupied in front of Metro Hall.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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