Art: The Trials Of Tilted Arc

Tilted Arc An unpopular work dramatizes the plight of public sculpture

Flanked by the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building and the U.S. Court of International Trade, Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan is one of the ugliest public spaces in America. Everything, from its coarse buildings -- which look the way institutional disinfectant smells -- to its dry, littered fountain, begs for prolonged shiatsu with a wrecker's ball. But since no one is going to do that, would the next best thing be to put a Major Sculpture by a Major American Artist there?

In 1981 a sculpture was installed in Federal Plaza. It was certainly major: a curving, unbroken wall of steel...

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