New York
New York  Art at Site Sawaya		Nathan Fortitude

Sawaya Nathan

New York Public Library
Website (april 21, 2011):
Will Patience have the patience to make it to 100? Will Fortitude have the fortitude?
The lions in front of the New York Public Library, on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, are 99 years 11 months 2 days old. The library is planning a gala that will celebrate the building they guard. But library officials did not want to forget them.
So they commissioned the artist Nathan Sawaya — who has done replicas of other New York landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty — to create a playful homage to the two oldsters. Mr. Sawaya’s medium is Lego blocks. The library lions were almost middle-aged when Legos were invented just after World War II.
These days the lions — the original, marble ones — are “the ultimate symbol of the library,” according to its president, Paul LeClerc. They are familiar in the way that the clock at the Biltmore once was. That may be why some New Yorkers assume they were loved from the moment they took their places, Patience on the downtown side of the wide front steps, Fortitude on the uptown side.
Patience and Fortitude! These names were bestowed by Mayor LaGuardia. A popular slang term ("The Lion House") has entered the Gotham vernacular for Public Library, and some other libraries have picked up this statuary custom - and the slang term. I use the Lion House a lot!
Called “New York’s most lovable public sculpture” by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the Lions have witnessed countless parades and been adorned with holly wreaths during the winter holidays and magnificent floral wreaths in springtime. They have been bedecked in top hats, graduation caps, Mets and Yankee caps, and more. They have been photographed alongside countless tourists, replicated as bookends, caricatured in cartoons, and illustrated in numerous children’s books. One even served as the hiding place for the cowardly lion in the motion picture The Wiz.