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PRINT April 2003

MILESTONES

1989: The Removal of Tilted Arc

BY THE TIME RICHARD SERRA’S Tilted Arc was lifted from Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan in March 1989, the controversy over its existence had spanned a decade. Discussions sparked by the 120-foot-long curved steel wall started even before its installation in 1981 and caused a detectable shift in attitude among artists, curators, and their audiences about the responsibility of public art to the public for whose benefit it is ostensibly intended.

Though the debate continues to this day, at the time the nature of that benefit had certainly been inadequately canvassed. The placement of art in the midst of life is not always an unqualified good, and it is still insufficiently appreciated that the right of people to participate in the decisions that affect their lives extends to art when it impinges on their lives as lived. The right of free expression is constitutionally guaranteed. What remains

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