Discussion of Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc”

Excerpt from “Discussion of a Subject of Space: the Forms, Functions, and Consequences of Richard Serra’s ‘Tilted Arc,'” presented by Francesca Miller on April 10, 2014

In 1979, Richard Serra was chosen by an independent panel of art professionals to present a proposal for a sculpture to be erected in Lower Manhattan’s Foley Federal Plaza. The project, as part of the General Services Administration’s Art in Architecture program, was commissioned by the government (Storr, 90). Serra’s art, as we have seen, is confrontational and complex despite its apparent formal simplicity, making Serra an interesting candidate for a government-sponsored public arts initiative (Storr, 90). Nevertheless, following approval from the head of the GSA, Serra’s sculpture was constructed in 1981 and situated in the Plaza in front of a public building. The 120-foot curving wall of steel that bisects the Plaza is consistent with Serra’s post-minimalist aesthetic and completely transformed the space into which it was inserted (Storr, 91).

Serra referred to the Plaza as a “pedestal site,” initially of little interest to the artist (Storr, 91). He viewed the project as an opportunity to disrupt the aesthetic of the space, breathing new life into the Plaza (Storr, 91). “Tilted Arc,” which cost $175,000 to construct, was not designed to be passive or ornamental (Storr, 91). The sculpture commanded attention and initiated a dialogue between individual and space. In its presence, an individual’s awareness of physical condition and environment were radically heightened. As such, the sculpture is a site-specific subject of space (Storr, 91).

Source: Storr, Robert. “‘Tilted Arc’: Enemy of the People?” Art in America 73 (September 1985): 90-97.

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