Planned Columbus Art Project Riles Some Italian Americans

The modern makeover is temporary, but some Italian Americans say instead of discovering Christopher Columbus, the creator is disrespecting him

The iconic Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Circle is about to be transformed into the 21st century by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, who plans to center the sculpture in a contemporary living room.

"Tatsu Nishi's concept is to create a typical New York apartment," said Nicholas Baume, director of the Public Art Fund, which is sponsoring the project. "It's going to have everything you or I would like to have in an apartment. A comfortable couch, nice side chairs, table TV set." 

The Columbus Circle attraction will tower six stories above street level, surrounded by loft-style windows that will give tourists views of Central Park and Midtown.

The modern makeover is temporary, but some Italian Americans say instead of discovering Columbus, the creator is disrespecting him.

"I don't believe they would do this with any other statue," said Andre DeMino of the Italian American One Voice Coalition. "Why does it have to be Italian Americans constantly being treated this way?What, are they going to have a TV going with 'Jersey Shore' at the same time?"

Baume said the project is not intended to be offensive.

"It's not about disrespecting," he said. "It's about focus and attention to this great statue, and putting it into the context of this contemporary artist's vision." 

Curious New Yorkers say they are looking forward to the exhibit. 

"If he was in this century, he would be sitting, watching television like the rest of us, that would be funny to see," said Elisa DeSouza. 

The monument will be open from Sept. 20 through Nov. 18, and will be free of charge, though visitors will need to reserve passes in advance through the Public Art Fund in Columbus Circle. 

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