Tatzu Nishi is known for one brilliant gesture: building temporary private rooms around public sculpture and architecture. A weather vane on top of a cathedral in Basel, Switzerland becomes a table-top sculpture in a normal-looking apartment. A clock tower in Ghent incongruously protrudes into a hotel suite. At the 2011 Singapore Biennial, visitors could book a one-night stay in a hotel room built around an enormous cement lion-fish.
Nishi has just opened his first intervention into US public space thanks to Public Art Fund. Gaetano Russo’s 1892 statue of Columbus at the center of New York’s Columbus Circle has become a tabletop sculpture in an eerily accurate reproduction of a penthouse apartment, down to a television, a carefully selected book collection, and wallpaper the artist designed in homage to American popular culture. While Nishi’s Singapore hotel room might have been appropriate to the itinerant crowd attending a biennial, his New York penthouse alludes to high-end real estate, a particularly appropriate setting to meditate on the future of Manhattan’s public spaces.