Columbus Circle's Iconic Statue at Center of 'Living Room' Art Exhibit and Controversy

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This statue of Christopher Columbus may look familiar to anyone who has visited New York's Columbus Circle as the one that's on a 75-foot-tall granite column in the middle of the traffic circle. So what's it doing, apparently off its pedestal and in some guy's living room?

The statue and it's perch are actually part of artist Tatzu Nishi's latest installation, unveiled on Wednesday: A replica of a living room -- constructed around the 13-foot-tall Christopher Columbus statue -- in an exhibit called "Discovering Columbus." Visitors to Columbus Circle can walk up six flights of stairs to enter the 810-square-foot, fully furnished room now at the top of the column and view the statue up close, with all the comforts of home.

According to the Public Art Fund, which commissioned the exhibit, the living room comes complete with tables, chairs, a couch and even a flat-screen television.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a fan of the exhibit. "It gives you a chance to, up front and close, view somebody that really had an enormous impact on the world," he said while visiting the installation, adding, "You'll also get a chance to see a statue close-up that really is an icon."

The art installation isn't without controversy, and some were concerned that objections to it would end up removing the statue (which is scheduled to undergo restoration) from public view in its new setting. The Associated Press reported a spokesman for the Italic Institute of America, which describes itself as a "guardian of Italian heritage," as saying that the exhibit's "cocoon of conceptual art demeans the community and trivializes history." Similar sentiments were voiced by other Italian-American groups.

Bloomberg's response? "We would have had to cover it and do the restoration anyway," he said of the statue. "If you think about it, it wasn't going to be available from the streets, and it even can't be seen from the streets. I suggest you go up and take a look."

You can follow the mayor's suggestion and click here for free tickets to the exhibit.

See also:
Inside Look: Frank Sinatra's Rat-Pack-Era Penthouse

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