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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.”

Richard Serra, Tilted Arch, Lower Manhattan
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.)

Serra never moved away.
Richard Serra, Tilted Arch, Lower Manhattan
Who: Richard Serra

What: Tilted Arc site

Where:  26 Federal Plaza

5 Responses to “Site of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc”
  1. Love this art world fuck you- Site of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arch via @artnerdnewyork

  2. HI, nice to see these old photos, site was quite raw, You can see the pieces interaction with the buildings shadows is the main issue, as the piece accidentally causes a difficulty to walk in the sun/shadow, hence choices Serra nether perhaps considered. what is interesting is that there is no mention that anyone was worried about it blowing over in the wind, as it is free standing. Saatchi showed something similar to this at the Boundary Gallery, London, in the Eighties – I kind of wandered if it was a reference to the Iron Curtain, tapped it with a coin to hear any sound off it. Of course it now looks more like a territorial issue between key influencers and the unexpected art piece. Amazingly enough some sort of issue is running on now about a Henry Moore piece and a Boston college.

  3. Edward Re says:

    Take my word for it. It was garbage the day it was installed, it was dirty. It was ugly. It was in no way helpful. And 18,500 people signed a petition to have it removed.

  4. tom says:

    it was a great court case, outlining that art is really not free speech, but strictly commercial, unless otherwise specified. it is an interesting disconnected with the panel who chose the art, the artist and the recipients of the site specific wonders why serra thought this installation should have been permanent is an interesting one in light of the closing remarks in the case, “Since the First Amendment protects the freedom to express one’s views, not the freedom to continue speaking forever, the relocation of the sculpture after a lengthy period of initial display does not significantly impair Serra’s right to free speech.” As an artist, Serra had already proved his point about the plaza.

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