Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"$100 million in fine art gone Dozens of works by Calder, Rodin and others lost in World Trade Center destruction," by Katherine Roth,

September 30, 2001, Chicago-Sun Times, "$100 million in fine art gone Dozens of works by Calder, Rodin and others lost in World Trade Center destruction," by Katherine Roth,

NEW YORK--Under the rubble of the World Trade Center lie the remains of 300 Rodin bronze sculptures, a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture, an Alexander Calder sculpture and many other works of art worth a total of more than $100 million.

Many companies in the twin towers and surrounding buildings adorned their walls and tables with rare pieces of art that never will be seen again, including Cantor Fitzgerald's collection of Rodin sculptures. Gone, too, are the huge sculptures in the plazas and a Joan Miro tapestry--all commissioned or purchased by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which set aside 1 percent of the cost of building the World Trade Center for public art.

"Most of the lithographs and etchings are done in limited editions, so other examples will still exist," said Arne Glimcher, head of the Pace Wildenstein Gallery. "But things like the [David] Hockney and the Lichtenstein, these are irreplaceable."

AXA Nordstern Art Insurance, the world's largest art insurer, estimates losses will top $100 million. AXA, which insured the Rodin sculptures, has set aside $20 million for its share of the claims.

The works include a bright red 25-foot Calder sculpture that looked a bit like the wings of a giant bird, the 1971 "Red Stabile," at 7 World Trade Center; a painted wood relief by Nevelson entitled "Sky Gate, New York," which hung in 1 World Trade Center; a painting by Lichtenstein from his "Enablature" series that was in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center; and Miro's "World Trade Center" tapestry from 1974 that was on display in 2 World Trade Center.

Some sculptures may be salvaged. Lichtenstein's 30-sculpture "Modern Head" has been seen on TV news clips, covered in dust and debris. One of Nevelson's works also looked salvageable, as did a piece by Dubuffet. And J. Seward Johnson Jr.'s life-size bronze statue of a man on a bench is intact.

The sculpture, commissioned by Merrill Lynch, is titled "Double Check." The open briefcase on the man's lap contains a stapler, calculator, tape recorder, pencils and sometimes a sandwich, provided by a passerby.

In recent days, people have put flowers in the man's hand and briefcase. One bouquet had a note that read: "In memory of those who gave their lives to try and save so many."

"It's rather weird that such an easy, forgettable work should become so poignant," said Tom Eccles, director of the nonprofit Public Art Fund, which places artwork throughout the city.

Great works of art, sometimes linked to a nation's spirit or history, often have been threatened or destroyed by terrorism or war.

During World War II, many important works were destroyed in Europe. And in 1920, during strife in Germany, stray bullets damaged the Rubens painting "Bathsheba." Most recently, Taliban rulers in Afghanistan blew up two giant statues of Buddha, chiseled into a cliff in the central Bamiyan Valley more than 1,500 years ago. The Taliban said the art was idolatrous and against the tenets of Islam.

But at times, some art has been saved.

During the War of 1812, first lady Dolley Madison rescued a famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington from the White House as the British entered Washington. And during World War II, many priceless works of art were removed from American museums and placed in protected vaults for safekeeping because of fears of possible attacks on U.S. soil.

As the debate begins over what to do with the destruction site, art is clearly on the minds of some.

"It is important that it be a place for works of art, not only for a memorial, which is widely called for," says Frank Sanchis, executive director of the Municipal Art Society. "We have asked the city to carefully consider dismantling the remaining fragment of tower No. 2 to possibly incorporate it into a memorial."

Bruce Ferguson, dean of the Graduate School of the Arts at Columbia University, said that over the last decade, much public art has reflected an urban irony and cynicism.

"Artists have often dealt with the dark side of the world and have made works of art symbolic of those moments which help us to work our way through the traumas," he said, citing Goya's "Disasters of War" series and Picasso's "Guernica," a protest against the bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish Civil War.

"Perhaps there will be a 'Guernica' of the World Trade Center," said Casey Blake, director of the American Studies program at Columbia. "The mural was a reaction to the aerial bombing of civilians. This is the terrorist equivalent, and maybe someone will be able to capture the primal scream we are feeling."

Katherine Roth. "$100 million in fine art gone Dozens of works by Calder, Rodin and others lost in World Trade Center destruction." Chicago Sun-Times. 2001. HighBeam Research. (October 1, 2010).

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