The Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents (October Books)

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9780262730891: The Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents (October Books)

Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, a 120-foot curved Cor-Ten steel structure in New York City's Federal Plaza, was destroyed in the spring of 1989 by the General Services Administration, the federal agency that had commissioned and installed what was Serra's most ambitious and probably most important public sculpture. These documents from the public hearing and the court proceedings are an essential primary source for scholars of art and law, providing a complete and moving record of censorship in the arts.

The impassioned speeches by important artists, political figures, and by federal employees for and against the sculpture's removal also make fascinating reading. Among those testifying at the hearing were Marion Javits, reading a letter from her husband, the dying Senator Jacob Javits; Congressman Theodore Weiss; artists Claes Oldenburg and Frank Stella; filmmaker Emile de Antonio; and Museum of Modem Art director William Rubin. Richard Serra's introduction presents his own acerbic view of the government's case.

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About the Author:

Martha Buskirk is Associate Professor of Art History and Criticism at Montserrat College of Art.

Review:

In the spring of 1989, sculptor Richard Serra's most ambitious and perhaps most important public work, TiltedArc, was destroyed by the General Service Administration - the same federal agency that originally commissioned and installed the piece eight years earlier. 7-be Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents recounts through primary materials - including government memos, legal briefs, letters, interviews, and public statements - one of the most significant events in the visual arts in the 1980s. In 1979, upon a National Endowment for the Arts recommendation, Serra was commissioned by the GSA to conceive a sculpture for Federal Plaza in New York City. In 1980, prior to its installation, the concept for TiltedArc was approved by the GSA with the understanding that the work would be site-specific. Plans for the sculpture were reviewed by the GSA and Art-inArchitecture officials before the 120-foot steel work was permanently anchored at its site in 1981. Upon its dedication, Serra was welcomed to the White House by outgoing-President Jimmy Carter and congratulated for his contribution to the cultural heritage of the United States. However, in 1984, a Reagan-appointed regional administrator of the GSA undertook the removal of Tilted Arc After appointing himself chairman and selecting members (two of whom were subordinates) to serve on a panel to decide whether Tilted Arc should be relocated, the GSA's New York Regional Administrator William Diamond held hearings over a three-day period in 1985. Some 180 people spoke at the public hearing: 122 testified in favor of retaining the sculpture, 58 in favor of relocation or removal. Nevertheless, the panel recommended, by a four-to-one vote, to relocate TiltedArc. Despite the artist's own lawsuits to prevent the removal of the work, during the evening of March 15, 1989, the work was dismantled; in the artist's view - because Tilted Arc was site-specific - the work was effectively destroyed. Serra is an internationally regarded minimalist sculptor whose work has been shown at the Guggenheim and Whitney in New York, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, Germany. In 1986, the Museum of Modem Art in New York held a one-man retrospective of his work. 7-be Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents is a necessary volume for anyone interested in this important artist's work. It also provides valuable resource material for art and legal scholars, while raising many questions regarding the moral and legal ownership of works of art. At its core, however, this book also raises the issue of government censorship of artistic expression. -- From Independent Publisher

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Published by The MIT Press (1990)
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Clara Weyergraf-Serra (Editor), Martha Buskirk (Editor), Richard Serra (Introduction)
Published by The MIT Press (1990)
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