(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

(adverb) in a manner that is nonchalantly absurd and embarrassing.

19 September 2012

Public Art Fund: Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus

Tatzu Nishi (b. 1960, Nagoya, Japan) is known internationally for his temporary works of art that transform our experience of monuments, statues, and architectural details. His installations give the public intimate access to aspects of our urban environment and at the same time radically alter our perceptions. For his first public project in the United States, Nishi has chosen to focus on the historic statue of Christopher Columbus.

The marble statue, which rises to more than 75 feet atop a granite column, was designed by the Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo. It was unveiled in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas. Despite its prominent public location, the statue itself is little known, visible only as a silhouette against the sky or at a distance from surrounding buildings.

Nishi’s project re-imagines the colossal 13-foot-tall statue of Columbus standing in a fully furnished, modern living room. Featuring tables, chairs, couch, rug, and flat-screen television, the décor reflects the artist’s interpretation of contemporary New York style. He even designed wallpaper inspired by memories of American popular culture, having watched Hollywood movies and television as a child in Japan. Discovering Columbus offers both a unique perspective on a historical monument and a surreal experience of the sculpture in a new context. Allowing us to take a journey up six flights of stairs to a fictional living room, Tatzu Nishi invites us to discover for ourselves where the imagination may lead.

About the Monument

Erected in 1892, this monument was designed by the Italian artist Gaetano Russo to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. Atop the monument is a larger-than-life marble statue of explorer Christopher Columbus, who surveys the City from his perch some 75 feet above the street. He stands on a granite column featuring bronze ships’ prows and anchors that refer to his famous voyage with the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Supporting the column is a base adorned with bas relief plaques portraying Columbus’s journey in addition to an American bald eagle, and an allegorical figure titled the “Genius of Discovery.” The monument was sponsored by Il Progresso Italo-Americano, a New York City-based Italian-language newspaper.

The monument is located in the center of Columbus Circle at the intersection of Eighth Avenue, Broadway, Central Park South (West 59 Street), and Central Park West. It is the point from which all official distances from New York City are measured.

For more information on these monuments or Central Park, please visit http://www.nycgovparks.org or http://www.centralparknyc.org.


In conjunction with Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus, Public Art Fund will oversee the conservation of the Columbus Monument in cooperation with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

In 2005 Columbus Circle was improved with the goal of making it a more hospitable destination for visitors. The roadways were reconfigured and the pedestrian walkways and crosswalks enhanced. Surrounding the monument, a new granite plaza was installed with specially designed benches and rimmed with seasonal planting beds, to create an oasis in the middle of the Circle. The interior fountain was removed, permitting seating at the base of the monument, and was replaced with perimeter fountains that soften the sounds of this busy crossroads.

The monument was unveiled in 1892, and in the hundred years since, its marble and original materials have been ravaged by time, weather, and other factors. The current conservation includes cleaning and pointing of granite and marble features, stone repair and consolidation, and bronze surface treatment.

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