Art-in-Architecture program in US commissioned a work of public art to add on to the charisma in Manhattan New York. An outdoor sculpture was commissioned to be designed by Richard Serra who was a notable artist of a great reputation and fame in the art world.
Tilted Arc was placed in Federal Plaza which bisected the space it stood in and ended up blocking the view and the path of those who frequented the area. The sculpture was slightly tilted, solid unfinished plate made of COR-TEN steel. While talking about his work Tilted Arc Serra said “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.”
The material and grade of steel that was used for the sculpture had a self-oxidizing property and was designed to cultivate upon it a natural rust like layer with the passage of time. The installation was termed as site-specific which meant that if the piece were to be removed from its location it would lose its meaning. The site of the installation is one of its vital constituting elements. As per Serra the sculpture was designed to interact with the commuters who would pass by the plaza, a location through which people would generally pass by on the way to their intended destination.
Since its erection on the site, the installation invited negative feedback from those who worked in the area. For the commuters the installation proved to be extremely disruptive to their daily routine and within months of its erection, more than 1300 bureaucratic employees who worked in the area signed a petition for its removal. In response to this the argument put forth by Serra was “it is a Site-specific work and as such is not to be relocated. To remove the work is to destroy the work.” His side argued that as the work was designed to be counter intuitive, it effectively redefined the space around it and shared an intimate relationship with the location and if it were to be removed from its exact location, it stood to lose its meaning. It was then claimed that if the installation were to be removed from its location, it would effectively be an act of destruction regardless of its physical condition.
This ensued a long drawn and controversial legal battle where experts and affected commuters from both the sides mentioned their own sides of the story. The final decision led to the removal of Tilted Arc by dismantling and storing it under government care.