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Developers May Destroy Dorothea Rockburne’s Iconic Sony Building Murals

A pair of large-scale site-specific murals by artist Dorothea Rockburne, installed in the Sony Building in Manhattan, may be destroyed by developers planning to convert the edifice into luxury condos, according to the New York Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein.

Rockburne took three weeks to paint both pieces, Northern Sky and Southern Sky, both 1993, which were commissioned by Michael Schulhof, head of Sony at the time. Now, the Chetrit Group, which bought the building for $1.1 billion, thus far has no plans for the murals, says Rockburne, who has been writing to them repeatedly for two years. “I had a lawyer write them [too],” she told the Post.

According to Vincent and Klein, the company claims it has been in contact with Rockburne and that she had been coordinating the fate of the murals with Sony, a claim that Rockburne denies. The Chetrit Group has yet to respond to an inquiry from artforum.com. “To knowingly destroy this work would be an act of vandalism,” Rockburne told us. She gave artforum.com a more extensive statement that can be read in its entirety here:

All of my adult life, I have been studying the geometry of astronomy. Part of that study is reflected in the Sony murals Northern Sky, Southern Sky. Geometrically these two facing thirty-by-thirty-foot murals reflect my geometric study of the electro-magnetic field in the northern and southern sky. The manner is which this field vibrates is related to our own bodies and the way our heart beats as is the ocean's waves. When viewers have spent time with this work they have intuitively experienced this relationship and importance to their living self.

To knowingly destroy this work would be an act of vandalism and in doing so would prevent future generations from enjoying a significant visual, cultural, art experience. It is indeed fortunate that there was not such a real-estate organization as “the Chetrit Group” around in Renaissance Florence!

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