TILTED ARC (1981)
By Richard Serra
 

 

In the 1980s, Tilted Arc unleashed a wave of controversy. Art critics deemed Tilted Arc the worst public sculpture in contemporary art. Some argued that the sculpture was not art and that it was a waste of money. There were no places to sit and no landscapes; the only visual was a ten-foot-high, 120-foot-long wall installed in Manhattan's Federal Plaza. The installation forced onlookers to become a part of the sculpture by devouring the public space of Federal Plaza. People became participants in the art piece because there was no way to avoid it. The debate over public opinion and free use of the plaza sparked the Tilted Arc war of controversy: the public versus art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1988, seven years after its installation, the General Services Administration finalized the decision to remove Tilted Arc from Federal Plaza. The ruling was based on the concerns that the public living and working near the plaza had more legal weight than those of a single artist of the professional art world. The public blamed the sculpture for not improving Federal Plaza, rendering it useless, and threatening the freedom of movement. In addition to launching complaints, the public failed to recognize the significance of the removal.

There is an undertow of a metaphor present in the installation of Tilted Arc. New York is not only the home of the largest city in the United States, but it is also considered the pulse of America because of the large of amount of people living in the city. The people are the pulse of the city, and the city is the pulse of America. By installing a sculpture in the center of this pulse, the sculpture becomes a part of it. Tilted Arc forced people to interact and become a part of the art that was now an element of the city's pulse. Therefore, by removing Tilted Arc, a part of the pulse, the lifeline to the city, was removed. Furthermore, without the pulse, the heartbeat of America does not exist.

 

 

 

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