‘Statue’ now making a ‘living’ at Met

He’s a hot “idem” up at the Met these days. Johan Figueroa González, formerly known as the “Living Statue” of Washington Square, now goes by the moniker Idem Caeli, and performs outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art — though no longer inside of a box — on the Upper East Side. Photos by Bob Krasner

BY BOB KRASNER | There is probably more than one statue in New York City that should be moved — but many would say this is not one of them.

As chronicled recently in this newspaper, Johan Figueroa González had previously eked out a living by performing for tips as a “living statue” in Washington Square Park, until his arrest on April 13 for using the iconic Arch as a supporting player in his silent tableau.

The performer covers himself in marble-like makeup for his act.

For some reason, after 70-plus performances perched on the edge of the Arch, the 83-pound performer was deemed to be a danger to the integrity of the historic marble structure, resulting in a 30-hour stretch in prison and a permanent ban from the ledge.

Despite gathering thousands of names on a petition to plead his case to the city, Figueroa González has chosen to abandon the park — but not New York. During the personal and financial crisis that ensued after the arrest, he came very close to going back to Puerto Rico, even announcing his plans to do so.

Although he formerly used a bookcase, his act is not merely “sidewalk furniture.” He tired of lugging around the bookcase.

Instead, he’s moved Uptown, to a  location where he had previously performed — the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He can be found there most days from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., except Tuesdays.

It should be noted that Figueroa González is not your typical costumed money grabber (See: Times Square). He seriously researched the history of Washington Square Park and put a lot of thought into his simple costume. He will continue to do so Uptown, where his look has already evolved.

Figueroa González, who now goes by Idem Caeli, “sharing his breath” with museumgoers on Fifth Ave.

Originally standing stock-still in a painted white bookcase, he meant to evoke a “cabinet of curiosities,” with himself as a conversation piece. Unfortunately, carrying the bookcase to and from the subway became too much, and so he has returned to standing on a small portable pedestal, as he used to do before deciding to mount the Arch.

He is being positive about the move, but there is no doubt that his ejection from the Arch has left him with a slightly damaged psyche.

“I felt contaminated” by the incident, he explained.

Johan Figueroa González outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He feels he was persecuted by police in Washington Square Park — hence his pose.

He noted that Ai Wei Wei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” cage-like sculpture — which stood under the Arch for four months — did more damage than he ever could.

“You will find the scars of an accident handling the installation,” he said.

In another symbolic move, he has cleansed himself by changing his performing name. No longer “La Petite Statue,” he is now “Idem Caeli,” a Latin phrase that he said means “same breath.” He then quoted a statement by Native American Chief Seattle: “All things share the same breath; the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”

The former “Living Statue” on the Washington Square Park Arch last year.

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