Published on September 29th, 2012 | by Charu Suri0
Columbus’ Inner Circle: Inside Tatzu Nishi’s “Discovering Columbus” Art Installation
I wasn’t sure what to make of the geometric array of aluminum beams that surfaced in Columbus Circle a few weeks ago. These beams, part of Tatzu Nishi’s latest public art project, concealed Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo’s 70 foot tall statue of Christopher Columbus. They made me one part cynical and the other part fascinated: what was Nishi going to do to a cultural landmark? Since I’m skeptical of modern art projects in general (perhaps because of my inability or unwillingness to understand some of them), I became, in the words of Lewis Carroll, “curioser and curioser.”
Like most coffee-fueled New Yorkers working in the area, I’ve exited the bustling subway stop at this station numerous times, well aware of the traffic circle bearing the famed explorer’s name and statue. I have even snapped a few pictures on days with interesting weather or lighting. But until I visited Nishi’s exhibit, I had never imagined what it might be like to experience a statue in the comfort of my own living room.
“Discovering Columbus” is free to the general public, but you will need a ticket well in advance (the installation is not easy to access for those who just casually want to drop by). The numbers of visitors is controlled: there is a capacity constraint, after all (we’re not in Montana, with unlimited real estate. We’re in a few square feet of constructed living room space some 70 feet above the ground). You can pick up your ticket on the 3rd floor of the Time Warner Center or by going to the Public Art Fund’s website. I arrived about 15 minutes before my scheduled time and gained access right on time. Appointments are available on the hour and half-hour.
Art transforms: Columbus Circle is now shrouded in the scaffolding of Tatzu Nishi’s installation, “Discovering Columbus.”
Visitors are permitted to enter, amusement-park style, after the attendant scans your ticket
The real entrance to the exhibit is not ground level: it’s six stories above the Circle’s park benches and charmingly punctual fountains. The installation’s supporting structure has the permanence of a Ferris wheel at a country carnival but much more meticulously designed and assembled. Through a door one might buy at Home Depot, I entered a simple yet elegant dark-wood hallway featuring a single piece of side table furniture. It felt exactly as a living room would: cozy and spacious, but for the fact that there were so many random people wandering about. The exhibit staff member is charming, and invites me to sit for a while, relax, and enjoy the current daily paper or a book from the shelf. In this aspect the installation is an ode to the power of leisure, and perhaps the most comfortable 30 minutes you’ll spent at the Circle.
A Samsung flat-screen tops the entertainment table beside the bookshelf. No DVDs or NetFlix available, but you only get 30 minutes to spend there, so chances are catching a few minutes of Inception may be a bit pointless. Instead, you’re fed with CNN headlines.
If you ever had an Erector Set (we’re talking pre Legos), you’ll appreciate the meticulously assembled scaffold supporting the exhibit above Columbus Circle
Two staircases bring visitors up and down six flights to the exhibit. An elevator also provides access
Like the entrance hallway, the living room retains the same simple elegance. Smack dab in the middle of the room is Christopher Columbus, whose presence is unmistakeable yet feels part of the organic setup. Nothing in the room—including the pink wallpaper featuring iconic American images sketched in a repeating pattern—clashes with the statue’s tone. Large paned windows overlooking Broadway and the Time Warner Center keep the lighting natural and balanced, so don’t forget to bring your camera. Visitors are encouraged to post their pictures on the exhibit’s website.
I left the exhibit feeling as though I got to know Columbus a bit better. After all, reading The New York Times in a living room with a looming presence of the explorer is not something you get to do on a daily basis. Columbus may have discovered America, but it is we who discover Columbus after visiting this extremely interesting, and arguably philosophical, installation.
Enjoy the view of Broadway and Central Park.
You enter the exhibit through the hallway. An attendant will invite you to sit down, relax and feel at home.
The Columbus statue in the center of the room atop the coffee table
Enjoy a seat in “your” living room for the next 30 minutes. A Samsung flat-screen rolls the news in the background.
Feel free to catch some headlines (newspapers are current), grab some reading material off the bookshelf, or help others snap pictures of their pose with Chris C.
It’s a real two-foot coffee table
The wallpaper echoes images of Americana
Columbus Circle way back when
You quickly realize you are part of the exhibit itself–or, in this case, part of Columbus’s “Inner Circle”
“Discovering Columbus” is not for the unannounced visitor. If you are in New York for the day only, it is not likely you will be able to access the exhibit unless you get your ticket prior to your arrival. So if you are planning to be in the City, get your ticket in advance through the website.
All photos copyright of Matthew Minucci, Butterflydiary. No reproduction without permission.