There’s a pretty stunning exhibit coming to Columbus Circle in September. The Public Art Fund will build scaffolding around the column in the center of the circle all the way up to the statue of Columbus, about 70 feet above the ground.
In the scaffolding will be steps that will allow visitors to climb up to the top of the statue. Then, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi will create a “living room” surrounding the statue of Columbus, as if the explorer was just hanging out in his living room and you stopped by to say hi. It’s weird, yes, but delightfully weird! Here’s how the Public Art Fund describes it:
“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.”
People can reserve free passes to the site on the Public Art Fund website shortly before the statue opens to the public on September 20. It will stay open through November 18; Columbus Circle may be closed before and after the construction. The statue will also be restored as part of the project. Construction has already begun. We’ll keep you updated as the project develops.
See more of Nishi’s work here. He seems particularly interested in putting massive statues inside human-sized living environments.
Read more about the history of Columbus Circle in this column by Stan Solomon.
Photo of Columbus’ head via Public Art Fund. Statue photo by Gwen Solomon.
Leaving xenophobia aside for the moment, this is just another example of how New York is being defined by its tourists, not its residents. And when the dollar strengthens against other global curriences and we are no longer a “great buy,” we will again learn how to live to our strength as a city – not a theme park. And, by the way, the traffic circle at Columbus Circle is already an auto and bus mess…can’t wait to see what this waste of time and public money adds to the equation.
I’m sympathetic to how New York is being re-designed (I was born and raised on 96th and Madison and now live on the UWS), but it has been this way since at least the time when EB White wrote “Here is New York.” And for good reason: tourists bring in needed dollars and through them justify many of the working class jobs.
They’re part of the ecosystem.
We’re with Jerry!
And how humiliated would Columbus be to see this???
I couldn’t feel more differently from the commenters above.
I am a native UWSider and I am excited to see this project, the same way I’d be excited to experience any of NYC’s art and architecture in new and extraordinary ways. It’s not every day that we get to see the tops of landmarks and structures in this tall city at eye level — and laugh at the messy traffic circles below like the birds do.
Living in a neighborhood means that neighborhood becomes commonplace to us, and we know everything about it, whether through active research, diffusion, or just because. That’s why residents are the ones who can take special pleasure in projects like these, I would think, because they let us get to know our neighborhood even better than we thought we did, or at least have a new experience with it. I think that’s something to get excited about.
Meanwhile, I highly doubt tourists are going to throng NYC just to see this small, temporary installation. This isn’t the Gates. I bet most people don’t even realize there is a statue of Columbus at Columbus Circle!
And to the extent that this does fulfill a tourism goal, what’s so bad about that? I love tourists who come and support and enjoy our city, even if they do block the subway doors. Also, I’m guessing that Columbus, businessman that he was, would be all for the added attention and publicity.
Anyway, one thing I think we can agree on is that the West Side Rag never fails to engender lively debate. GO RAG!
I’m also a 20+ year Upper West Sider. Couldn’t have said it better, LKN. I’m looking forward to checking this out.
It’s an interesting idea. And I don’t think it’ll bring as much tourism as people think it will. You have to care about what’s outside of midtown to be interested in this and that rules out at least 30-40% of tourists. I just think however, from the info we have about what the point of this installation is, that it’s a failed opportunity to be a teaching tool instead of just, “Hey look, it’s Columbus in a living room.” Yes, I do think (personal opinion, feel free to disagree) that this kind of thing has to say something if it’s going to be part of our landscape for a while. Otherwise, are we just a canvas to attract people from other places? My concern with these things isn’t to be against the art, it’s to wonder why the residents are never consulted. And unfortunately, that’s why so many people are often left with the sour taste in their mouth that the city favors tourists over its residents. If I saw ALL cities cater to tourists as much as New York does, it wouldn’t bother me as much how heavily this city has bent from having tourist attractions to being primarily tourism minded.
Again, just my opinion. I know it’s not a popular one and is considered inflexible and curmudgeonly. But it’s how I feel.
Altho’ not a great-great idea, at least it’s not as terrible an idea as was The Gates, which made a shambles out of our wonderful park. Actually most NY’ers, seeing the scaffolding, will probably figure it’s just another past-deadline repair job.
BUT WE SHOULD ALL GO! AND BRING SOME GOOD ITALIAN FOOD TO SHARE WITH POOR OLD CHRIS. HE’S BEEN STANDING UP THERE FOR DECADES WITHOUT A BITE OF CALAMAR’…MADE WORSE BY THE FACT THAT HE HAS TO WATCH THE ONE-PERCENTERS GORGING THEMSELVES INSIDE NEARBY ROBERT, THAT FANCY-SHMANCY RESTAURANT ON UPPER FLOOR OF THE MUSEUM OF ART AND DESIGN.
AND HE’S PROBABLY DYING FOR SOME HUMAN COMPANIONSHIP!
SO GO TALK TO HIM, BUT BRING ALONG SOME GOOD NEAPOLITAN PIZZA…IF NOT FOR CHRIS THEN FOR THE PIGEONS.