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Living room built around NY Columbus statue a hit

NEW YORK -- A conceptual art installation that surrounds a 13-foot (4-meter) Central Park statue of Christopher Columbus with a well-appointed living room has become a must-see New York City cultural attraction.

Since Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi's “Discovering Columbus” opened Sept. 20 some 20,000 people have made the walk up six flights of stairs for the up-close view of the explorer who discovered America — as well as the unique views of Midtown Manhattan and the park.

“Living room in the sky? I thought 'Cool. Check it out,'” said business analyst Brianna Goodman, who visited this past week. “I would never have thought to build a living room around a statue, but it made it like an intimate setting. And then the view from up there!”

The statue rests on a 60-foot (18-meter) granite column at the southwest corner of Central Park. Columbus' marble features usually are visible only from afar.

For his first installation in the United States, Nishi has perched Columbus' “home” atop scaffolding that encases the column.

The statue rises out of a large coffee table so that it seems to preside over a highbrow salon. Pink wallpaper, designed by the artist, depicts American icons Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King Jr.

Visitors can plop themselves on a sofa, admire the views and scan the titles on Columbus' bookshelves, which include Walt Whitman's “Leaves of Grass,” Barack Obama's “The Audacity of Hope” and books about baseball and American history.

“I was really enjoying trying to figure out who are these people who live in this apartment,” said art therapist Bonnie Hirschhorn. “I was picturing some New York City intellectual.”

Artist Martha Bone said the walk up and down the stairs was well worth it. “It was one of the best installations I've ever seen ... It's my city.”

But, not everyone is a fan. John Mancini, executive director of the Italic Institute of America, said the artwork turns the 1892 statue by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo into “a stage prop.”

“How can one artist hijack the work of another artist?” he complained.

The exhibit is being presented by the city's Public Art Fund, and free timed tickets can be reserved at www.publicartfund.org. Another 80,000 are slated to see the exhibit before it ends Nov. 18.

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Leaders of the Italian-American community and civil servants from New York, including police and sanitation workers and other guests, pose for pictures and arrive in what is known as the living room created by artist Tatzu Nishi, an installation that surrounds Gaetano Russo's 1892 sculpture of Christopher Columbus, New York, Sunday, Oct. 7.

(AP)

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