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October 30, 2016
Tilted Arc Response Paper
In 1981, Richard Serra was commissioned by The General Services Administration (GSA) to create a piece of art for the city of New York. His 12-foot-tall, 120-foot-long minimalist steel sculpture was meticulously placed at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan . The piece of art, which interacted with the flow of the site-specific foot-traffic to create an impression upon the observer, was known to be startling, intimidating, but extremely effective in making the intended impression. On March 15, 1989, after an eight-year struggle between Serra and the local government, it was ruled that his monumental structure was to be removed and relocated. Serra was absolutely infuriated by this ruling, and refused to allow his artwork to be moved to any other location. Because of his refusal to succumb to the government's verdict, and the government's choice to further solidify their stance during the lawsuit following, the 15-ton steel work was deconstructed, and Tilted Arc was no longer. Over the past three decades, this controversy has been utilized in a multitude of classrooms across the United States. Because of this continuous debate over the outcome of the Tilted Arc, there have been more than enough stances taken for and against the dissolution of this immense piece of art.
Many of those in support of the sculptures existence stated that eradicating the sculpture would invade Serra's First Amendment rig ht to free speech and was undoubtedly un-American. Serra and his supporters also held to the fact that Tilted Arc was designed specifically for the Federal Plaza, and b ecause Tilted Arc was site-specific and participated with its surroundings, it could not be moved to another setting like many other sculptures could . The y then emphasized that the removal of the figure from Federal Plaza would essentially extinguish it. They were correct.
Opponents of Tilted Arc believed that the community had not been properly addressed, and that there was not enough "warning" (T he GSA later adjusted its rules in 1988 to include more civic awareness programming ab out all new sculptures). Others felt that the sculpture compromised the safety and observation of the plaza, leading to the neighboring buildings being more susceptible to terrorist attacks. Some people even claimed that the sculpture provoked graffiti sts and rats. Moreover, they found Tilted Arc to be nothing more than an eyesore in New York City.
Overall, I find both sides of this debate to be valid. When it comes to art in or around the workplace, many would prefer something "useful", or at the very least, something that is out of their way. However, the importance of artistic freedom and symbolic impression is much more important than the idea of convenience. I would have listened to the majority of those who faced the jury, and allowed Tilted Arc to remain in place. Who are the few to determine what art is and how it should be portrayed? As a history major, I frequently find that after a controversy early in the pieces exis tence, problematic artworks often turn out to be masterpieces. Because of this fact, I would have wanted Tilted Arc to remain.
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