One of the many one-of-a-kind bargains that can be found at the Fremont Sunday Flea Market is this sixteen foot, seven ton statue of Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of communist Russia. Finding this statue on a street corner in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, would be enough to fulfill all of the suspicions of any naysayer of the liberal left coast. In this case though, it is not the artwork itself that is important, but the story behind it.
It was created by Emil Venkov, a Slavic artist who has worked in bronze for over thirty years and who is now widely exhibited in Europe and the United States. It was installed in what is now modern Slovakia in 1988. It is a unique representation of Lenin, portraying him surrounded by guns and flames, instead of the usual portraits that show him holding a book or waving his hat. The sculptor wanted to convey a subtle form of protest, by expressing his vision of Lenin as a violent revolutionary and not just as an intellectual and theoretician.
In 1989, after the Velvet Revolution, the American teacher, Lewis Carpenter, found this statue lying facedown in the mud, ready to be sold for scrap. He purchased it and then working with the original artist had it eventually transported to Seattle in 1994. Carpenter financed all of this with a mortgage on his house. In the midst of the uproar in Seattle that was set off by his import of a statue of a communist leader, Lewis Carpenter was killed in a car accident. The Carpenter family continues to try to sell the statue. Their asking price has risen over the years from $150,000 to $250,000.
Fremont is a quirky artistic community, so the statue has found a home of sorts. During Christmastime the statue is topped with a red star. It was once made to look like John Lennon. During Gay Pride Week it is dressed in drag.