Columbus Up Close

  • "Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus" will be open at Columbus Circle until November 18, 2012. Photo: Tom Powel, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY
  • The statue of Columbus is normally only viewable from the ground, 70 feet below. Photo: Nicholas Baume, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY
  • At one time, the statue of Columbus at Literary Walk was one of three in the Park.

The Public Art Fund has unveiled its latest temporary addition to the Park, "Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus". The installation has created a "living room" around the 13-foot-tall statue of the explorer in Columbus Circle, a statue ordinarily viewable only from the ground 70 feet below. The "living room" is supported by metal scaffolding and surrounds the sculpture. The room is furnished with the everyday items found in a traditional living room: a couch, a television, a coffee table. The room also features custom wallpaper by the artist, covered with images from pop culture that Nishi associates with the United States.

The statue at Columbus Circle is one of two Columbus monuments cared for by the Central Park Conservancy's Preservation and Conservation staff. The other is at Literary Walk, on the Mall's southern end. The Conservancy's Maintenance and Operations staff is responsible for daily maintenance of the plaza, including the operation and maintenance of the fountain, sanitation and lighting.

Both Columbus statues were built during a period when several ethnic groups contributed statues to the Park. This period began with a bust of the poet and dramatist Johann C.F. von Schiller donated by German Americans in 1859. In 1892, Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo completed the statue of Christopher Columbus in honor of the 400th anniversary of his New World discovery. Placed at Columbus Circle, Rosso’s sculpture commemorated the country of the explorer’s birth. Just two years later the second statue by Spanish sculptor Jeronimo Suñol was placed in the Park, honoring Columbus for Spain, the country for whom the explorer sailed. Suñol's statue was a modified version of one he made for Plaza de Colón (Columbus) in Madrid a decade prior. At one time, the Park even had a third statue of Columbus, which has since moved to the Kings County Supreme Court building in Brooklyn.

"Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus" will give on-lookers unprecedented access to the statue at Columbus Circle and offer views of the Park available only to the statue itself for the past 120 years. The installation will be open until November 18, 2012.

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