In the last few months, the controversy regarding the landmarked Manufacturers Trust Company building at 510 Fifth Avenue designed by Gordon Bunshaft for SOM came to relative conclusion both with the settlement of lawsuit between Vornado Realty Trust and the local activist group Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation, and the opening of the new Joe Fresh retail store.
While many have and some will continue to argue the specifics of the legal case, the reopening marks the remarkable return of the 1954 golden arbor screen sculpture by Harry Bertoia. The 70-foot screen along with a second Bertoia sculpture – a mobile representing a cloud, again occupy the space and provide separation between customer and employee areas.
The return of the Bertoia screen and mobile remind us of the importance of art in public spaces and the need to preserve that collaboration of physical space and art. As Docomomo US president Theodore Prudon writes in his article Art, Architecture and Public Space in New York, 1950-1970 in the Docomomo Journal 42 (Summer 2010), there was a great deal of fine art incorporated in corporate and public space in New York City. While much of that art can be still be found in and around Fifth Avenue, some have already disappeared including the Josef Albers mural entitled Manhattan from the former PanAm Building (now Metlife Building).
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