SAN FRANCISCO—In honor of Indigenous People’s Day on October 12, previously named Columbus Day, the San Francisco Art Institute announced that a new statue by Portuguese-born artist Rigo 23 will be unveiled. The statue depicts Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who has been imprisoned since 1977. Peltier was imprisoned for allegedly shooting two FBI agents in 1975. The conviction has undergone dispute multiple times throughout the years. In 2004, he ran for president from prison, and appeared as a 2020 vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism party.

Rigo 23’s statue is a large scale depiction of Leonard Peltier, standing 12 feet high. It is made out of wood from Californian redwood trees, and is based on a smaller hand painted portrait that Peltier drew while he was in prison. The statue will be displayed on the rooftop terrace of the San Francisco Art Institute, facing Alcatraz Island.

According to a description of the installation from the San Francisco Art Institute, the statue is about 4 years old, and travelled around the United States. Following the statue’s creation in 2016, Rigo 23 planned to debut it at the Katzen Art Center at the American University campus in Washington DC. After it was installed, it was taken down by FBI agents. It was then exhibited at the Main Museum in Los Angeles, before traveling to San Francisco’s current exhibition.

“It is a counter presence to the invisibility of Indigenous People in the USA and the continuous abuse they endure enshrined in the ‘Cigar Store Chief’ statues which can be found chained to cigar and liquor storefronts in most American cities still today,” said Rigo 23 in a statement.

The statue was virtually unveiled at the San Francisco Art Institute on October 9 at 3 p.m., and will be on display until March 28, 2021. 

Rigo 23 is an artist who is based in San Francisco, and has exhibited work both locally and internationally for over 20 years. Some of his other works can be seen throughout San Francisco, including murals like One Tree, Cars and Birds, and the Clarion Alley murals.