Maquette for Tilted Arc

  • Richard Serra, Maquette for Tilted Arc, 1980, bent and incised steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the General Services Administration, Art-in-Architecture Program, 1981.188

Tilted Arc was designed for the plaza of the Jacob Javits Federal Building, which was built in New York City in 1968. Richard Serra’s sculpture met with hostility from some of the plaza office workers, who felt that the piece disrupted the flow of foot traffic. Within a few years, the General Services Administration held a trial to assess how the work affected the use of the plaza. Surprisingly, of the 180 people who testified, 122 supported the sculpture while 58 favored relocation. Those opposed compared it to the Berlin Wall and the iron curtain and suggested relocating the piece to a site near the Hudson River. Although opinion was evenly divided, the GSA decided that Tilted Arc should be dismantled. In 1986, Serra sued the government for breach of contract and his right to freedom of expression and due process, arguing that Tilted Arc was designed specifically for that site and would lose all meaning anywhere else. District Attorney Rudolph Giuliani responded that neither the First nor the Fifth Amendment was applicable, since Serra had voluntarily sold his speech” to the GSA. The Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the government had the right to modify, censor, or destroy Tilted Arc. The sculpture was dismantled on March 15, 1989. William Diamond, regional administrator of the GSA, proclaimed: This is a day for the people to rejoice, because now the plaza returns rightfully to the people.”

The viewer [of Tilted Arc] becomes aware of himself and his movement through the plaza.” Richard Serra, quoted in Art in the Public Interest, ed. Arlene Raven, 1989
Maquette for Tilted Arc
Not on view
33018 in. (7.676.10.2 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the General Services Administration, Art-in-Architecture Program

Mediums Description
bent and incised steel
  • Abstract – geometric
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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