- "Unconditional Surrender”
- Artist: Seward Johnson
- Aluminum, 26 feet tall
- Originally displayed in Sarasota in 2005 as a temporary exhibit
- Purchased by late World War II veteran and Sarasota resident Jack Curran from the Sculpture Foundation (now Seward Johnson Atelier) and loaned to the city for 10 years
- Formally became part of the city’s public art collection in 2020
- ‘Surrendered’ (relocated) in January 2021 to an area of Bayfront Park between O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill and Marina Jack to make way for the construction of the roundabout at Gulfstream Ave. and US 41.
I recently sold a condo on Palm Avenue and spent a lot of time around the Sarasota Bayfront leading up to this sale. One day I witnessed a 'strange' sight! A
I recently sold a condo on Palm Avenue and spent a lot of time around the Sarasota Bayfront leading up to this sale. One day I witnessed a 'strange' sight! As most of you recently read in the local news, the iconic Unconditional Surrender statue located at US 41 and Gulfstream Avenue was just moved in anticipation of the construction of a roundabout, set to begin this February. That was the sight I witnessed!
Each time I drive by the Sarasota Bayfront, it reminds me of how much the area has changed throughout my lifetime in Sarasota. My wife Liz’s family goes back almost four generations in Sarasota and Manatee County and she remembers old family stories of a yellow house which belonged to her Uncle Zeke, just south of Church of the Redeemer. This was long before that WWII sailor kissed the dental assistant (no, she was not a nurse!) on V-J Day in 1945. Of course Uncle Zeke’s Florida cracker house has long since been replaced by a high-rise condominium…across the street from Unconditional Surrender!
J. Steward Johnson’s giant kissing statue parked alongside U.S. 41 has been beloved and despised in Sarasota since it first appeared in that spot for a temporary visit in 2005. The 26-foot-high statue depicting George Mendossa, a World War II sailor kissing a woman, Greta Zimmer Friedman, on V-J Day in 1945 and inspired by an iconic photograph, has had its detractors but it’s undeniably popular.
Sarasota's Bayfront Park has had the "kissing sailor" statue has surrendered their spot several times. In 2012, a car struck it, knocking a hole about the size of a microwave oven out of the sailor’s foot. The anti-statue folks got a few months’ reprieve before the repaired smooching duo were returned to their prominent pedestal. Tourists and locals alike flock to it, passing their cameras off to someone who can capture their efforts to replicate the giant figures’ pose. The statue has also been the backdrop of many protests and marches, including the 2016 Women’s March, which saw thousands gather at the Sarasota Bayfront park. The “Unconditional Surrender” statue has also attracted the attention of vandals. On April Fools Day in 2015, someone added a pink substance, made to resemble chewing gum, to the heel of the woman.
In 2019, the statue made national headlines when someone spray painted ”#MeToo” across the man’s legs the day after George Mendosa, the sailor depicted in the photograph that inspired the statue, died. Although the original image of Mendosa kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman has long been heralded for epitomizing the joy shared throughout the world upon the ending of hostilities in 1945, it has come under scrutiny, with many accusing Mendosa of assault. But in a 2005 interview, Friedman’s son said the kiss was nonconsensual, but that his mother understood it was a “jubilant act,” telling the New York Times that she did not view the kiss as an assault at all. On that day, they threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square!
So whether or not you think our kissing statue is art, it is certainly popular…maybe more so than the road construction of new roundabout which caused its latest move! And if you would like a bird's eye view of Unconditional Surrender, I can help you find a great condo on the Sarasota Bayfront!
Here is a great video about the kissing couple and how they ended up on the cover of Life Magazine!