“Discovering Columbus” revisited…

It has been only 12 years since the “Discovering Columbus” exhibit was opened to the public in Columbus Circle, NYC. It was a triumph at the time and now we have to hear people wanting to remove the statue or attempting to destroy the reputation of that great navigator. I reprint here the article that appeared at the time on L’Idea, Brooklyn Downtown Star, Queensledger, LIC/Astoria Journal, Glendale Register, Leader-Observer, Forst Hill Times, Glendale Register, Queens Examiner, and Greenpoint Star magazines.

Everyone can see how the situation has changed, but it is our responsibility as American citizens, and especially as Italian Americans, to uphold the right that Christopher Columbus detains to be honored in our society and to be an ever-present icon in our history textbooks.

Don’t let ignorant and unprepared people tell you otherwise on this great man, who deserves continuing recognition for having opened the opportunity for this land to become, even with all the defects it may have, the America we love and cherish.

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena

“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to experience a beloved New York City Monument like never before”. This is how the Public Art Fund, which commissioned the large-scale temporary art installation (September 20th to November 18th) around the historical monument by Gaetano Russo, in Columbus Circle, has defined Tatzu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus.

The author at the “Discovering Columbus Exhibit”. Photo Copyright 2012 Tiziano Thomas Dossena

It may be so: Nishi’s artwork will center on the sculpture of the famous explorer, providing a ‘living room’, equipped with all the proper furnishings of a common American living room and supported by metal scaffolding, which will allow viewing the statue up close, a really unique experience. Visitors will be able to distinguish the details of that statue, his features, his clothing and of course his gaze to the “New World” ahead, which are hard, if not impossible, to determine and appreciate from the ground, seventy feet below. Large, loft-style windows will also consent to the visitors a dramatic view of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan, making this occurrence truly a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund Director and Chief Curator, ardently promoted this wonderful Art installation, and explained the origins of this project: “When Tatzu first visited New York City, he became fascinated with the statue. He realized that despite its central location the Columbus statue is barely visible, a solitary figure hiding in plain sight atop a column some 70 feet in the air. Tatzu felt it was time to give Columbus an apartment of his own, with Central Park views, and to throw an open house to which all of New York City is invited

The structure built around the base of the statue to enable people to visit the exhibit. Photo Copyright 2012 Tiziano Thomas Dossena

.” According to Baume, therefore, Tatzu “recontextualizes those different elements and creates almost a kind of surreal experience of something that is perhaps very familiar but that has become unfamiliar or is discovered in a new way through his work of art.” It is a revelation of something that is hiding in plain sight.
Another positive aspect of this project is that the statue and the pedestal will have the opportunity to be clean for the occasion.
The plan is to have 100,000 people climb up the stairs to behold from up close this marvelous sculpture, 50 persons at a time. To avoid long lines, tickets , which are free, will be available, as of the first days of September, at: http://www.publicartfund.org/discoveringcolumbus, and at Columbus Circle after the official opening of the installation on September 20th. This will allow visitors to see the statue by “appointment”, since the tickets will be timed (access to the public will be between 10 am and 9 pm).

Columbus Circle’s view from the statue. North direction. Photo Copyright 2012 Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Columbus Circle’s view from the statue. South direction. Photo Copyright 2012 Tiziano Thomas Dossena

The problems with the project that the organizers have addressed are the installation’s safety, proper access for the handicapped, traffic snags caused by visitors, and the protection of the statue itself. One unforeseen issue, though, seems to be the reaction of some Italian Americans who say that instead of discovering Columbus, the creator is disrespecting him, to which Nicholas Baume responded: “It’s not about disrespecting, it’s about focus and attention to the great statue, and putting it into the context of the contemporary artist’s vision.”
We fully agree with Mr. Baume’s view and look forward to visiting this marvelous art installation.
As Mayor Bloomberg declared: “This fall, New York City will rediscover Christopher Columbus in a new and exciting way, thanks to the creativity of Tatzu Nishi.”

Photo Copyright 2012 Tiziano Thomas Dossena

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