Internationally recognized Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi recently unveiled his first U.S. installation: a full-sized living room complete with furnishings constructed around the Christopher Columbus statue in the middle of Columbus Circle.
After ascending six flights of stairs, viewers are afforded a view unlike any other. Admirers of the installation, “Discovering Columbus,” have a rare, up-close view of the statue and the modern New York apartment Nishi constructed around it.
The Columbus statue stands on a pedestal, which acts as a coffee table in the center of the room. The statue is surrounded by contemporary couches and chairs where visitors can sit and reflect. Other realistic features include a fully functioning television, lamps and a bookshelf filled with an assortment of art and culture related books.
Wallpaper displaying American pop-culture phenomena such as Elvis, Coca-Cola and Mickey Mouse provides an interesting contrast to the prodigious historical value of Columbus.
“One of the most striking features of this exhibit is the commentary it makes about a public sculpture placed in a private setting,” said Jon Ritter, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Art History at NYU. “The statue is intended to be in a public place to mark a public hero, but once it is placed in the context of a private living room, a surprising and shocking concept is created.”
Gallatin freshman Kendall Hill found visiting installation to be a truly unique experience.
“I found it really interesting how multiple artistic expressions were incorporated throughout the design of the room,” Hill said. “The smaller details gave it a realistic feel.”
The Public Art Fund, a non-profit organization sponsoring the exhibit, reached out to Nishi about the project nearly three years ago. Nishi was invited to visit and familiarize himself with New York’s different public statues. Contributing factors to his specific choice of the Columbus statue include its prime location at the center of one of New York’s busiest intersections and the aesthetic qualities of the monument.
“One of our goals as an organization is that the works we present change the way people view our city and the urban environment, and I think that’s especially true of this work,” said Kellie Honeycutt, communications director for the Public Art Fund. “Visitors are having a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the statue and at the same time can look out the windows to see views of the City that they will never have again.”
In addition to the artistic value that the exhibit provides, a continuing legacy will be the complete restoration of the monument, occurring in conjunction with the installation.
“Discovering Columbus” is on display through Nov. 18. The exhibit is free and accessible by timed-entry tickets only. Passes can be reserved at PublicArtFund.org.
Emory Lopiccolo is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]