04.07.2012 / Presse
Bear hugs from Berlin
A circle of 143 bear sculptures representing different countries are in town to promote peace and harmony.
The world-touring United Buddy Bears are celebrating their 25th exhibition and 10th anniversary in St. Petersburg. One hundred and forty-three brightly painted two-meter tall bear figures from all over the world stand hand in hand in the Alexandrovsky Garden, promoting living together in peace and harmony.
The free outdoor exhibit is open in the city 24 hours a day through Aug. 5.
Buddy Bears first hit the streets in 2001. Project initiators Eva and Dr. Klaus Herlitz wanted art to be on display in city streets and decided to start a unique art project in Berlin.
“The positive reaction we got from visitors gave us the idea to use Buddy Bears’ popularity to provide more targeted food for thought to promote mutual understanding between different people. In 2002 this thought developed into the idea of the United Buddy Bears,” said Michael Stefanescu, managing director of Buddy Bear Berlin.
Each fibreglass bear represents a member state of the United Nations. All of the bears are standing together hand in hand, forming a large circle of equals.
Artists from all over the world were invited to realize the project. Each bear was created in a different style to express the unique character of the artists’ native countries, allowing visitors to take a journey around the world while visiting the exhibition.
“Together Buddy Bears represent a complete work of art, spreading an enormous zest for life,” said Stefanescu.
“The bears promote tolerance and mutual understanding between different nations and cultures. None of the bears represent a government or current political system. They represent people and their cultures. The arrangement of the different countries symbolizes the vision of a world that will be peaceful in the future,” he said.
There are also four special bears that present ideas necessary for people to co-exist peacefully. Two golden bears holding hands show that nobody can live on their own and that how people behave toward one another has consequences. The first Golden Rule bear conveys the message that the more friendly a person is to other people, the more friendliness they are likely to receive in return. The words “Try to treat everyone the way you want to be treated” are written on it.
The second Global Ethic bear illustrates that there can be no peace among nations without peace among religions. The bear represents the basic commandments from the “Declaration toward a Global Ethic” and is covered in quotes from different religions that all mean the same thing — “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.”
There is also an Einstein Bear with the scientist’s words: “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” The Respect For All Life Bear appeals for people to have a kind attitude towards all living creatures.
The bear was chosen from other animals to be the ambassador for this mission because it is the symbol of Berlin, the city where the sculptures and idea originated.
“People perceive bears to be simpatico and likable — maybe just because most of us grew up with teddy bears. And the raised arms of the bears symbolize that they are not dangerous and do not want to harm anybody,” said Stefanescu.
Since 2002, over 30 million people have viewed the globe-trotting bears.
“Wherever the exhibition has been displayed, including in St. Petersburg, all visitors are excited, thrilled and enthusiastic … We are also glad to see that the message of tolerance and understanding is well understood,” said Stefanescu.
The project aims not only to help with the way people view other countries and the world, but also to raise financial aid for those who need it.
“We also want to highlight that many countries are in urgent need of our support. Children from all over the world can benefit from the proceeds generated by auctioning off sculptures from the circle of United Buddy Bears,” he said.
Charity has become a key part of the Buddy Bear exhibits. During the ten years of its activities the project has raised more than $2.4 million to help children in need. In St. Petersburg one Buddy Bear that represented Russia during a past exhibition (and can still be seen on display at the exhibit as a second figure representing Russia) will be auctioned off to benefit a local children’s charity organization. The starting price is 160,000 rubles ($4,915).
The Buddy Bears’ next destination is Paris: In October this year, they will make their famous circle next to the Eiffel Tower. In 2013 the bears will travel to Brazil.
“Due to the fact that more cities and countries are requesting to host the exhibition, it seems that the world tour of the United Buddy Bears is a neverending story,” said Stefanescu.
The United Buddy Bears exhibit runs through Aug. 5 at the Alexandrovsky Garden in front of the Admiralty. M. Admiralteiskaya. www.buddy-baer.com.
Quelle: The St. Petersburg Times