Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, 1981

Controversial intervention in Federal Plaza, New York City.

Installed in 1981, the 10-foot-high, 120-foot-long curved wall of Cor-Ten self-rusting steel that curved across the square instantly became a magnet for criticism.  The work was deemed elitist and a health and safety risk to users of the space- as well as interrupting the movement of workers in the nearby office buildings.  It was removed in 1989 after a series of sensational public hearings.

Serra intended the site-specific sculpture to challenge the user of the space: “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.”

This awareness of our public spaces enables us to be critical of urban design, and question how we use public spaces, and how they affect us through every day use.

 

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