When the Party Animals go up for auction on Oct. 24, Swiss-Key won’t be among them. Vandals this summer savagely thrashed the multicolored donkey statue, inflicting such extensive damage that the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities believes it’s beyond repair. “They banged it with some sort of iron rod so two legs are broken,” says Silvia Broennimann, an official at the Embassy of Switzerland, which sponsored Swiss-Key. “The ears are cut off, and on one side it had graffiti on it.”
Shortly after the incident, the donkey was taken off the street and stashed away in storage. Given the statue’s sorry state—and low profit potential—the arts commission is keeping the statue out of its online auction and considering the embassy’s request to return it. “I’m told they will have a memorial for it at the embassy,” says project manager Alexandra MacMaster.
The Swiss, however, aren’t ready to bury the donkey just yet. “I don’t think it will be necessary to have a memorial service,” Broennimann says. “We would rather try to bring it back to life. We actually have some people here at the embassy who think they should be able to do it with the right amount of time.” If they can’t, she says, the embassy may “put bandages on it” and display it anyway.
The embassy also wants its undamaged pachyderm Rescuephant back. But that statue, with a barrel hanging from its neck and an alphorn for a trunk, is now on the auction block and already has received an online bid of $500. Still, the embassy is undaunted. “The whole staff will try to come up with the amount of money to buy the animal,” Broennimann says. “Our ambassador is strongly supporting the idea, and he feels that we should do anything that’s possible and necessary to bring Rescuephant back to the embassy.” —Chris Shott