Art in Tribeca: Art at the World Trade Center

Another good one to add to your list of things to do when guests are in town: Silverstein Properties has just built a website for its art installations. Find it here. It features Frank Stella’s Jasper’s Split Star; Fritz Koenig’s Sphere; Jenny Holzer’s For 7 World Trade Center. (In the list below, I omitted the ones that are not visible to the public.)

Also included on the site is an anecdote explaining how Larry Silverstein’s passion for public art began. He was building 7 World Trade Center in the ’80s and fell so in love with a stone from Finland that he used it everywhere — the exterior, the lobbies, even the elevators.

The Silversteins with Frank Stella. Photo by Joe Woolhead.

“On opening day in 1987, I walked around the lobby and said to myself, ‘Oh my God. What have I done? It’s awful!’

“I remember calling [my wife] Klara and saying, ‘Sweetheart, you have to come down!’ When she arrived, I said, ‘We’ve got to do something with this thing – give it some color and life. Because it’s a mausoleum!’ She immediately agreed, and we decided to scour the city for some contemporary art to liven the place up.

“We visited a number of art galleries, including André Emmerich’s gallery on 57th and Madison. We were mesmerized by a painting by Al Held, an American abstract expressionist painter. The colors were so vivid and bright with different lines and a lot of hard edges. It was exactly what we needed.

“So, I asked André, ‘What’s the biggest one you’ve got?’ He told me 10 feet by 10 feet, and I shook my head and said, ‘That’s not big enough. I need a bigger one!’ When I told him the wall was 16 feet high and over 25 feet in length, he suggested Klara and I check out Al Held’s huge painting on display at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, a spot chosen because it was one of the few places with a wall big enough to hang it.

“Klara and I went up to St. John the Divine, and sure enough, there was this massive painting by Al Held, called The Third Circle. It was colorful, vibrant, kinetic, and oh my, was it big! I immediately fell in love with it. So we bought it and put it up in the lobby against the far wall. Klara and I looked at it and I exclaimed, ‘That’s terrific! Now what are we going to do with the opposite wall?'”

It goes on from there, with he and his wife acquiring art from Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Nevelson, Frank Stella; commissioning work from Ross Bleckner; preserving Isamu Noguchi’s iconic red cube at 140 Broadway.

Of course it was all destroyed in 2001, but he went on to collect more: Jenny Holzer’s piece in 7 WTC that samples Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes and Elizabeth Bishop; Jeff Koons’ Balloon Flower (now gone, sadly) in the park outside designed by Tribeca’s Ken Smith; Kenneth Snelson, who collaborated with David Childs to design One World Trade Center’s spire.

“Klara and I get so much pleasure from meeting with artists, learning about their craft and what inspires them. It’s also a thrill to share their works with my employees, as well as with our tenants and their visitors. Art is such an important part of what makes New York the special place that it is and always will be.”

Frank Ape (path to Oculus from West Broadway)
5. Fritz Koenig Sphere (Liberty Park) 
7. Kozo Nishino Sky Memory (4 WTC lobby)
9. James Rosenquist Joystick (3 WTC lobby)
Eduardo Cobra (2 WTC plaza)
10. Stickymonger Cosmic Traveler (2 WTC plaza)