- CHARITY BENEFIT
Just when you think New York has taken tourism to the ninth degree, something new happens. The newest attempt at art sounds dangerous and a traffic nightmare for most New Yorkers, with a liability to the city of New York.
This fall Public Art Fund presents Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus, a large-scale temporary installation inviting visitors to experience New York City’s iconic statue of Christopher Columbus as never before. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, this major new work recontextualizes the historical monument at the center of Columbus Circle, placing it in the middle of a contemporary living room, six stories above the street. The creation of Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, this work will temporarily transform the traditional monument into a contemporary artwork, reshaping visitors’ perceptions of both. And through large, loft-style windows, the work will grant visitors dramatic views of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan that can only be seen from Columbus’s perspective. In conjunction with this exhibition, Public Art Fund will also oversee the conservation of the Columbus Monument in cooperation with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Art & Antiquities.
“This fall, New York City will rediscover Christopher Columbus in a new and exciting way, thanks to the creativity of Tatzu Nishi,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “It makes perfect sense for this innovative artist’s first North American installation to be staged in New York City, which has always been home to groundbreaking public art. This is sure to become another must-visit attraction for the millions of tourists who will visit New York City this fall to enjoy our vibrant cultural institutions and art scene.”
Since its unveiling 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas, the monument, designed by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo, has been one of New York’s most iconic statues. Nishi’s artwork will center on the marble figure of Columbus at the column’s crown. A room supported by metal scaffolding will surround the sculpture and be furnished with all the trappings of a domestic living room–lamps, a couch, a coffee table, a television, and more. The room will also feature custom wallpaper by the artist, covered with images from pop culture that Nishi associates with the United States.
“Christopher Columbus is an enduring icon of exploration and discovery, and the prominence of Columbus Circle is a testament to his historical and cultural significance,” said Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator. “When Tatzu first visited New York City, he became fascinated with the statue. He realized that despite its central location the Columbus statue is barely visible, a solitary figure hiding in plain sight atop a column some 70 feet in the air. Tatzu felt it was time to give Columbus an apartment of his own, with Central Park views, and to throw an open house to which all of New York City is invited.”
When Discovering Columbus opens in September, visitors will access the room by climbing six flights of stairs within the scaffolding. In addition, a lift will be available for individuals in need of special assistance. As with all Public Art Fund projects, this commission will be presented to the public free of charge, though visitors will be required to reserve passes in advance through the Public Art Fund website.
Tatzu Nishi (b. 1960, Nagoya, Japan) lives and works in Berlin, Germany and Tokyo, Japan. He has created unconventional, site-specific public art projects around the world, transforming historical monuments by surrounding them with domestic spaces. Whether through the lens of a bedroom, hotel, or, as with Discovering Columbus, a living room interior, his works remove these traditional statues from their everyday contexts to create surprising, intimate encounters with familiar monuments, making them accessible to the public in new ways.
Past exhibitions include Villa Victoria (2002) a temporary functioning hotel around a statue of Queen Victoria for the 2002 Liverpool Biennial; Engel (2002), an imagined one-room apartment over the roof of a 14th-century cathedral in Basel, Switzerland, enclosing a bronze angel-shaped weather vane; Tatzu Nishi: War and peace and in between (2009-10) two living spaces built around equestrian sculptures at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in association with Kaldor Public Art Projects; and The Merlion Hotel (2011), a temporary hotel suite built around Singapore’s iconic Merlion fountain for the 2011 Singapore Biennial.