The captivating image at the top of our blog is one of the most recognized pieces of site-specific art, Richard Serra's Tilted Arc. Commissioned by the US government in 1981 to be placed in the open space in front of the Federal Plaza in New York City, it consists of a solid unfinished plate of steel (120ft long and 12ft high) placed in the center of the space.
For Serra, "The viewer becomes aware of himself & of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction & 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 sculptures generated controversy as soon as it was erected, with critics saying it interfered with public use of the plaza and attracted graffiti, rats, and terrorists. Four years later, a public hearing was held to determine if it should be relocated. Serra testified that the sculpture was site-specific, and that to remove it from its site was to destroy it. Additionally he said if the sculpture was relocated, he would remove his name from it. Regardless it was dismantled in 1989.
The Tilted Arc, generated many questions about public art. The role of government funding, an artist's rights to his/her work, the role of the public in determining the value of a work of art, and whether public art should be judged democratically are all heatedly debated.