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Whose Art Is It? Landmark Skirmishes Over Artworks in the Public Realm

Charging Bull

2015 Open House New York Weekend Walking Tour

Saturday, October 17, 2015
2:30 p.m.

Reservations via Open House New York beginning Wednesday, October 7 at 11 a.m. Update: This program is sold out. 

Art in New York’s public realm has sparked loud protest, legal fisticuffs, and crucial questions about the rights of artists when their work becomes part of the public experience. Who owns the art? Who profits? And whose artistic vision endures? This walking tour explores three different sites that tell a fascinating set of stories about cultural authenticity, historic preservation, and art’s contested place in the public realm. We begin at the plaza of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, where Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc—a 120-foot-long slab of Cor-Ten steel installed in 1981—prompted bitter debate, the sculpture’s ultimate removal, and widespread legal repercussions including the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. Next we pay tribute to Charging Bull, the Wall Street icon with a backstory of brazenly illegal art activism: artist Arturo Di Modica clandestinely deposited the three-and-a-half-ton bronze bull in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. Since finding a home at Bowling Green, the bull has prompted continuing skirmishes over who is entitled to profit from works of art in public spaces. We conclude at the nearby National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center, where we explore the special arrangements required to accommodate this major collection of Native objects in respect to the many cultures it represents. The museum is housed within the landmark, Cass Gilbert-designed Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House—a monument to international commerce whose motifs sometimes stand at odds with the indigenous histories told by the museum’s exhibitions.

About Open House New York Weekend – October 17-18, 2015

For two days each October, OHNY Weekend unlocks the doors to New York’s most important buildings, offering an extraordinary opportunity to experience the city and meet the people who design, build, and preserve New York. From historic to contemporary, residential to industrial, hundreds of sites across the five boroughs are open to visit, with tours, talks, performances and other special events taking place over the course of the weekend. Through the unparalleled access that it enables, OHNY Weekend deepens our understanding of the importance of architecture and urban design to fostering a more vibrant civic life and helps catalyze a citywide conversation about how to build a better New York.

Pictured: The renowned Charging Bull. (Photo: Charley Quinlivan)