Happy Columbus Day, New York City! In honor of the 520th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ journey, we visited the Public Art Fund’s Tatzu Nishi’s “Discovering Columbus” installation at Columbus Circle yesterday afternoon.
What did we learn from the great Italian explorer (and the Japanese artist who created the installation)?
* Stating the obvious, Gaetano Russo’s 1892 sculpture — which is the centerpiece of this installation — is MUCH bigger up close than it seemed walking by Columbus Circle in the past. It dwarfs everything else in the (fake) apartment.
* Nishi designed the American pop-culture wallpaper that covered the walls of the “living room” that surrounded Columbus. It featured Mickey Mouse, Elvis, a hotdog, McDonalds, Coke, baseball, Marilyn Monroe, and the Empire State Building. We (Julia) are now somewhat obsessed with the idea of design-your-own wallpaper.
* We wonder what Columbus would have had to say about the (very) flat screen TV that was playing in the corner — not to mention all of his visitors fiddling on their smartphones, Tweeting, and taking digital photos.
* Tatzu Nishi is known for putting people on eye level with historical monuments — by surrounding them with rooms. It’s a bit gimmicky, but it would be nice to get up to the level of other NYC statues and monuments. For example, we’d love to look Lady Liberty in the eye or to get up to the top of City Hall to have a visit with Justice.
* 400 years ago, America had a different perspective on Columbus than it does today. Most of the sculptures and other artwork commemorating the explorer in the City were created in honor of the 400th anniversary of his journey (see our interactive map). It’s hard to imagine that level of energy going toward anything today; it’s especially hard to imagine that level of public commitment to art or to Christopher Columbus.