A 1960s chandelier-like metallic sculpture that once graced the lobby of Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall will be reinstalled in LaGuardia Airport, potentially ending a more than six-year saga over its controversial removal.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the news on Wednesday, although the NY Times broke the story earlier in the day.
In his press release, the governor credited architecture critic Paul Goldberger for proposing LaGuardia’s new Terminal B as the home for the artwork. Goldberger served as an advisor to both the Port Authority on its LGA redevelopment plan and to Lincoln Center in the renovation of the newly named David Geffen Hall.
“It’s almost unheard-of that a piece of great public art gets a chance at a second life in a new location that is so well-suited to the piece,” Goldberger said in a statement. “The sculpture will be seen by even more people than before, and it will be the focal point of the grand public space of the Central Hall, being developed as the ‘living room’ of the new LaGuardia.”
On Twitter, Goldberger had hinted at the new plan on Tuesday.
The piece, titled “Orpheus and Apollo,” was originally installed in 1962 after being specially designed for Lincoln Center by the acclaimed New York sculptor Richard Lippold, who died in 2002.
Composed of 190 bars of shimmering metal and some 450 steel wires, the sculpture was a show-stopper: it weighed 5 tons, and stretched nearly 40 feet high in height. After hanging in the Philharmonic Hall lobby for 50 years, it was removed in 2014, presumably for maintenance. However, its lengthy disappearance worried preservationists.
Finally, in December 2019, following the release of a $550 million renovation plan for the renamed David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center officials confirmed what many of its fans had suspected: the sculpture would not be coming back to the renovated music venue, as they said the space could no longer accommodate it.
Shortly after its decision, preservationists launched an effort to save the Lippold piece, leading to the Preservation League of New York placing it on its “Seven To Save” list, a biennial compilation of the most at-risk historic places in the state.
Michele Bogart, an art professor at Stony Brook University who has written extensively about the history of public art in New York City, expressed skepticism that the new Geffen Hall could not accommodate the sculpture.
“It is distressing that those who regard themselves as cultural stewards could be so cavalier about a work of art that was conceived as an integral part of the institution’s history and identity,” she said. “That said, the institution has clearly changed, and the sculpture has been removed, so that is now water under the bridge.”
She added: “I am pleased to see the Lippold transferred to a suitably grandiose public space that will do aesthetic justice to the sculpture, a new locale where it can be enjoyed by millions of people.”
Orpheus and Apollo will be unveiled in June, along with several other pieces of art, as part of the ongoing $8 billion redevelopment of La Guardia Airport.
Lincoln Center recently announced that Geffen Hall will reopen in the fall of 2022, a year and a half earlier than originally planned.
This article has been updated to note that Geffen Hall will reopen in fall 2022, not fall 2020.