Site of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc
On this site in front of the Javits Federal Building stood the controversial 120 foot long CorTen Steel “Tilted Arc” by Richard Serra. The piece was commissioned by the United States Arts-in-Architecture program in 1981. And the workers at the Federal Building HATED it.
Of the intent of the sculpture, Serra said “The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer’s movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes.”
But according to Federal employees, lead by powerful Chief Judge Edward D. Re, the piece was an eyesore, too expensive, attracted rats (steel attracts rodents?), but mostly people felt that it was an inconvenience to have to walk around the giant wall in order to enter the building.
After nine years of litigation and appeals, with testimonies from art world stars petitions, and even a threat from Serra himself, saying he would forever leave the country should his work be altered, the piece was removed in 1989 and destroyed (as per Serra’s wishes, as we refused to have the site-specific piece relocated.)
What: Tilted Arc site
Where: 26 Federal Plaza