Richard Serra “Titled Arc” / US government
(In 1981, the US Arts-in-Architecture program (part of the US General Services Administration) commissioned artist Richard Serra to create a work of public art for the Federal Plaza in NYC.
The work proved controversial from the outset: some balked at its cost ($175,000 for a solid block of steel); others objected to the graffiti and rats it seemed to attract; others simply found it an eyesore. Most significantly, a number of people working in surrounding buildings complained that the work was an inconvenience, as they were forced to walk around the massive sculpture as they crossed the plaza. (Which, according to Serra, was precisely the point: “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.”)
As a result of this controversy, Judge Edward Re began a campaign to have the the sculpture removed. In 1985, there was a public hearing to determine whether Tilted Arc should be relocated. Serra, for his part, argued that work was site specific, that to remove it would be to destroy it, and if it was relocated, he would remove his name from the piece. At the end of the hearing, a jury ruled 4-1 to remove the piece. Serra appealed, and the ruling was debated over the course of the next five years or so.
In the end, the jury’s ruling was upheld. Exercising proprietary rights, authorities of the General Services Administration ordered the destruction of the public sculpture that their own agency had commissioned ten years earlier. Government workers dismantled the work on March 15, 1989.)