Modern Art: A 75-Foot-Tall Columbus Statue Moves into the Living Room

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Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

The 810-square-foot living room atop the Columbus Monument art installation titled "Discovering Columbus," by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, is seen in Columbus Circle in New York September 20, 2012.

Even in a city known for its ultra-cool apartments, this living room has it all: 6th-floor views of Central Park, hip contemporary design — and a 13-foot tall sculpture of Christopher Columbus standing on the coffee table.

Designed by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, this art installation, dubbed “Discovering Columbus” and backed by the Public Art Fund is a full, contemporary living room surrounding the 19th-century statue, perched atop a 75-foot-tall column in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, at the southwest corner of Central Park. The statue, unveiled in in 1892, was crafted by Italian Gaetano Russo to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s first voyage to the Americas.

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“Despite its prominent public location, the statue itself is little known,” notes the exhibit’s website, “visible only as a silhouette against the sky or at a distance from surrounding buildings.” To remedy that, Columbus now rests comfortably among the couch, chairs, tables and flat-screen television of the newly created living room. Nishi has even custom-designed the room’s wallpaper, plastered with American pop culture images throughout.

This isn’t the first time Nishi has brought the public closer to a major statue: in the past, he’s turned Singapore’s Merlion Fountain into a hotel suite, and done the same for a statue of Queen Victoria in Liverpool, England. But this is his first U.S. installation.

Opening last week, the exhibit — up six flights of stairs — remains free to the public through Nov. 18, although passes are required for a 30-minute viewing of the most artsy living room in Manhattan.

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