Climb six flights above the center of Columbus Circle and lounge in a luxury living room with Christopher Columbus himself… all 13 feet and multiple marbled tons of him? Yes please! Starting last Thursday and continuing daily (and eveningly) through Dec 2nd, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi’s totally fun public art installation, Discovering Columbus, invites you to do just that, and for free. I went on opening day, loved (almost) everything about it, and plan on returning more than once over the next few weeks.
Taztu Nishi: Discovering Columbus is entertaining and appealing on many levels. For one thing, I’ve probably walked by Columbus Circle at least a thousand times in my life–and, since the excellent renovation of the space in 2005, actually spent many hours relaxing and watching the skaters and eating Whole Foods- or Bouchon Bakery-purchased snacks there, and never once can I remember even glancing up to look at the statue that gives the place its name.
That certainly changed with Taztu Nishi’s work; as you can see from the photographs, Discovering Columbus makes the massive marble man the center of attention, completely dominating the room. Designed and erected back in 1892 by Italian artist Gaetano Russo to honor the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s’ first voyage to the Americas, the Columbus here is almost almost amusingly cocky, throwing his hip and everything. If a statue can be said to strut, this 500+-year-old dude is doing it.
Discovering Columbus Gives You a New Look at a Familiar Statue
Also cool about Taztu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus are the 360-degree views, either from the open “terrace” or through the windows, looking across 59th Street, down 8th Avenue, up Broadway and CPW, and, of course, out over Central Park. The interior decor of Nishi’s living room is pretty perfect as well, with plush couches, heavy curtains, custom-designed wallpaper (the images are from Nishi’s memories of how he perceived New York City as a kid in Japan), and upper-crust tchotkes.
And it was great how UNcrowded the room felt, whether because there were a lot of no shows during my time slot or just because it’s a pretty big room, and people tend to stand by the wall. My only complaint would be with the inclusion of a large flat-screen TV, turned to CNN (though muted, thank god), which gives an unwelcome reminder of… everything I don’t want to be reminded of. Maybe they could at least put on cartoons?
Taztu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., from now through December 2nd. Admission is free, but you do need to register for a timed-entry ticket which, apparently, are going fast, at least during prime times (the first weekend was completely booked). You can order your tickets online, at the Public Art Fund website, or reserve your 30-minute slot at the ticket “booth” on the third floor of the Time Warner Center, right across the street. More info about everything on their website.