An urban myth came to life in Union Square Park today with the unveiling of public art installation, “N.Y.C Legend.” The bronze sculpture by Swedish artist Alexander Klingspor, in collaboration with Mollbrinks Gallery, features a life-sized alligator on the back of a manhole cover lid, drawing on the century-old myth of sewer alligators inhabiting the underbelly of New York City. The installation will be on display to June 2024.
Originating a century ago, the legend suggests that New Yorkers once abandoned baby alligators—imported as pets from Louisiana and Florida—in the sewers when they became too large to manage. Over time, this story has evolved into tales of subterranean monsters, capturing the city’s imagination.
Inspired by the resilience of both alligators and New Yorkers, “NYC Legend” merges ancient mythological symbolism with modern urban folklore. The sculpture pays tribute to New York City’s enduring capacity to adapt and survive, a quality embodied by the alligator—a creature revered across many ancient cultures for its armor of scales and ability to regrow limbs.
“Stories are the very backbone of human civilization giving shape to our shared consciousness through sculptures, paintings, and architecture,” says Klingspor. “This piece is a testament to our timeless drive to find icons in nature, and to the bridge that myth builds between the ancient and modern that still echoes today.”
Presented in partnership with New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and Union Square Partnership, and funded by Swedish Mollbrinks Gallery, the sculpture was cast by Perseo Foundry in Switzerland in, which is known for top-quality materials and advanced casting techniques, such as Lost Wax and Vacuum.
“Alexander Klingspor’s striking bronze sculpture, “NYC Legend,” joins the impressive collection of iconic public sculptures proudly on display throughout New York City. Its placement in Union Square, one of Manhattan’s most prominent and bustling locations, for a period of eight months allows for widespread and meaningful engagement with the public,” said Joseph Douek, a member of the NYC Planning Commission. “We take great pride in showcasing Klingspor’s masterpiece and are hopeful for its permanent installation following the exhibition period.”
Alexander Klingspor (born 1977, Stockholm, Sweden) is a contemporary Swedish painter and sculptor.
“Union Square is a local destination where New Yorkers celebrate community, culture and spirited expression, as well as a global destination for artists from around the world to share their public works for all to enjoy in New York City,” said Julie Stein, Executive Director, Union Square Partnership. “We look forward to sharing this legendary work of art with the Union Square community and encourage all city visitors to come to Union Square to see this magnificent sculpture for themselves.”
With a rich history rooted in the power of public expression, Union Square Park has presented renowned works of public art in recent years, from New York City artist MIDABI’s “The Only Other” to street murals by Spanish artist Vanesa Álvarez and Sunset Park artist Ji Yong Kim to the critically-acclaimed Confront Art’s SEEINJUSTICE series, presented in the fall of 2021. The series featured three 12 foot bronze sculptures of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Congressman John Lewis by Chris Carnabuci.