This is a case of righting a wrong in a monumental way. A statue of Christopher Columbus in Mexico City is getting replaced by a statue of indigenous women. The rightness of this goes to a story not usually told.

Nobles Oblige

The Italian explorer who brought Europe’s colonization to the Americas is said to have abused natives. What’s more, according to historian Jack Weathenford in his 2001 book “Examining the reputation of Christopher Columbus,” the abuse of women was part of the picture. An account was written by Columbus’ friend Michele da Cuneo saying that the explorer “gave to him” a native female who he proceeded to rape.

“Gave”? Allocating a woman speaks loudly of Columbus’ attitude to indigenous females.

Art News reports that the 19th-century bronze commemoration of Columbus, which had a prominent place in Mexico City’s busiest street – Paseo de la Reforma – will be replaced on October 12 by a monument to women in Mexican history. Sculptor Pedro Reyes will do the honors.

Pull the switch

This switch of monuments gives me an idea. With all the longstanding displays of rape and abuse of women in art museums, why not replace the most prominent with art by women? Even one switch would be a teaching moment. I’m thinking of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 7.5-foot-tall marble statue Rape of Proserpina, on view at the Borghese Galleries, a large tourist attraction in Rome.

Incredibly, the statue, which describes a fierce abduction, was commissioned by a man of the cloth - Cardinal Scipione Borghese, appointed by Pope Paul V. And he couldn’t have picked a better artist than Bernini for the job. The sculptor was known for lending marble the look of flesh.

Equally flesh-like would be Kiki Smith’s sculpture called Bloodpool.

It is also disturbingly realistic. Made of Smith’s preferred material of wax for its flesh-like pliancy, the figure, a female, lies in a fetal position and appears bloodied. This would be a powerful demonstration lesson of victimization to replace Bernini’s statue of rape.

Of course, of course, this is an impractical idea. The Borghese Galleries isn't going to replace a work commissioned by a Borghese with a work by a contemporary artist named Smith.

I can dream, can’t I?

OK, if not substituting an old statue for a new one, why not remove from one museum exhibition a famous painting of rape and replace it with a work by a woman? I’m thinking of taking down Peter Paul Rubens’ Rape of the Sabine Women from the walls of the National Gallery in London. The replacement?

Subbing painting with photography

Maybe Nan Goldin’s self-portrait photograph titled One Month After Being Battered. While it’s a description of domestic violence, it can also stand for victims of rape, And because the victim is the artist herself, the image makes clear that abuse can happen to any woman. No one is above it.

Rubens’ Rape of the Sabine Women is too often viewed as a picture of something that happened a long time ago and in Roman mythology.

Goldin’s large-scale color photograph of her bloodied self, down to a swollen eye, can bring the point about abuse home. The artist admitted being in a years-long dysfunctional relationship with a man given to jealous rages. “Our sexual obsession remained one of the hooks,” she is quoted saying at her 2016 MoMA exhibit The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.”

While artists like Smith and Goldin get museum shows (Bloodpool is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago), their presence could be felt all the more if they became replacements – even temporarily - for Old Masters like Bernini and Rubens. I’m just saying.