September 26, 2012

"Discovering Columbus"

As we all learned in elementary school, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and discovered America.  400 years later the event was commemorated with a marble statue of the explorer by Italian artist Gaetano Russo.  For 120 years, Christopher Columbus has witnessed many changes from atop his 75 foot perch at the intersection of Eighth Avenue, Central Park West, West 59th Street and Broadway, commonly known as Columbus Circle.  But despite his central location, this is one statue which is never really looked at by most of the passers by.

At least until now!

Under the auspices of the Public Art Fund and thanks to the generosity of private and corporate donors, the Master Mariner is now the center of a new art installation project that will knock your socks off!  For a limited time, visitors to Columbus Circle can view the statue practically at eye level and in the comfort of a living room.  That's right - a living room!  As imagined by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, the 13 foot tall statue of Christopher Columbus is now surrounded by a fully furnished living room with windows looking East, South and West! 

I had noticed the scaffolding going up around the statue's base and then I heard something about an art project but nothing specific until last week when The New York Post featured a color photo on the front page of the paper.  I HAD to go.  In fact, I went the next day to pick up my free timed-entry tickets from the information counter at the Time Warner Center (they are also available on-line at  This afternoon I joined the queue and waited my turn to climb the six flights of steps inside the scaffolding to mount the base of the statue to the top.
Like many other people I have passed by Christopher Columbus hundreds of times, on foot, in a cab or in a city bus, but never paid it that much attention.  I was therefore surprised to see the beautiful bronze ships' prows and anchors that decorate the granite column.  Upon arriving at the top, my group was greeted by a very friendly guide who welcomed us to sit on the furniture and take all the photos we wanted but to please not touch the statue.  We then entered a sort of front hall/foyer that led to the main attraction.

My immediate reaction when I turned into the pink wallpapered penthouse was to burst out laughing.  I was not alone.  Imagine entering a living room with a sectional sofa, a flat screen tv, bookshelves, paintings and, oh yes, an enormous marble statue on the coffee table!  The idea was so preposterous that it was really funny.  Here, standing very nonchalantly in the middle of a fairly ordinary living room, is Christopher Columbus, one hand on his hip and the other steering an imaginary vessel's rudder, with his gaze fixed on Eighth Avenue! 

"Discovering Columbus" remains open to the public until November 20th at which time he will be treated to a long-overdue face lift and restoration.  I can't wait to go back and see it again - maybe in the evening when the city lights are on or on a rainy day or when the leaves in Central Park have changed color.  What an absolutely fabulous way to celebrate this icon of the New World!

No comments: