Officials have broken ground on a new museum dedicated to the Statue of Liberty, which is being championed by project “godmother” Diane von Furstenberg.
The legendary fashion designer, who has backed the Liberty Island museum since its conception, is leading the fundraising effort for the development through her philanthropic organisation, the Diller-Furstenberg Family Foundation. Slated to open in 2019 and expecting to welcome 4.3 million visitors a year, the Statue of Liberty Museum already has $40m (£33m, €37m) of the $70m (£58m, €64m) required in the bank.
“Lady Liberty is a symbol of everything America’s about: freedom, hope, possibility and resilience,” says Von Furstenberg. “It is She that millions of immigrants saw first as they arrived in this country, their hearts full of dreams for a brighter future.
“Now it is my hope that the Statue of Liberty and her incredible story will live on and on, inspiring generations for years to come. What she represents out there is everything we love about this country and everything that has to be protected.”
With an impressive network of rich and famous contacts, Von Furstenberg came up with an idea to convince them to support the project – to create a sculpture using original iron bars from the statue. The iron bars, which were created by French engineer Gustave Eiffel, supported the statue for a century before they were replaced during restoration works in 1986. The metal will now be used to create a mural of 50 stars, one for each state, which can be bought by donors for $2m (£1.65m, €1.84m).
“People like what is limited,” explains the Belgium-born Von Furstenberg.
Those who have bought a Liberty Star so far include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for the Bezos Family, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for Bloomberg Philanthropies, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts for Comcast NBCUniversal, Star Wars creator George Lucas, Chanel, Coca-Cola, the Diller-Furstenberg Family Foundation and the Walt Disney Company.
Designed by Nicholas Garrison, principal at architecture firm FXFOWLE, the 26,000sq ft (2,400sqm) museum is a key part of the beautification plan for Liberty Island, with the grass-roofed building seemingly rising out of the ground. The museum will blend into the island surrounds and not compete with the statue. Inside, ESI Design will handle the exhibits and interactive displays, while the big reveal will be the original torch, which was also replaced in the 1986 restoration. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service are overseeing the plans.
As well as its philanthropic work to support human rights, education and community building initiatives, the Diller-Furstenberg Family Foundation has raised funds for a number of cultural projects in New York, including the High Line and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The upcoming Thomas Heatherwick-designed floating park, Pier 55, has also been largely funded by the foundation with contributions of more than $100m (£83m, €92m).
The designer, who became an icon of women’s fashion when she invented the wrap dress in the mid-1970s, is known for being a shrewd businesswoman, with her fashion empire now rooted in 55 countries worldwide. In 2015, she was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People.