The Jersey City City Council voted Wednesday to accept a 98-foot sculpture dedicated in memory of the World Trade Center attacks that was created by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli. After some controversy, however, they have yet to decide where to put it.
The proposed sculpture, "Grief Tear," will stand 98 feet tall from a granite base and will be 21 feet bide and 10 feet thick. It will weigh 175 tons. It is a gift from Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the people of Russia.
Tsereteli is President of the Russian Academy of Arts and a UNESCO Ambassador of goodwill. His work is displayed worldwide.
The sculpture will be made of bronze laid over a corrosion-resistant steel superstructure. A giant tear made of nickel will hang in the middle of the structure.
"Originally, the tear was going to be made out of crystal," said Emily Madoff, lawyer from Wolf Popper, the New York firm representing Tsereteli. "When he thought about it more and was visiting the site, he decided to change it to nickel so people could look and see their reflections."
Nine steps will lead to an 11 sided gray granite base engraved with the names of victims of the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center Attacks. The entire footprint will be 65 feet wide.
Objections from different corners
The monument was not accepted without controversy. In the weeks leading up to the resolution, the Jersey City Russian community, the artists' community, and the Department of Environmental Protection voiced objections to the piece.
"The artists felt that he was trying to buy his way into this community as a recognized artist with this donation," said Ward D Councilman William Gaughan.
A number of Russian immigrants attended a November Council meeting to object to Tsereteli's artwork.
"Some of those individuals have questioned him overall ," said Councilman at Large Mariano Vega, Jr. "They were questioning him as to the kind of work that he does."
According to an article in the <I>St. Petersburg Times</i>, "Most arts critics and ordinary citizens pull faces when hearing his name, accusing the artist of gigantomania and poor taste."
In Moscow, a 94-meter high monument of Peter the Great drew protests for its size. In 1991, five U.S. states rejected a statue of Columbus that was twice as high as the Statue of Liberty.
Ward B Councilwoman Mary Donnelly answered questions about the artistic merit of Tsereteli by bringing a book of his work to Monday's Council meeting. She said she supported the artist.
"Tell me if you think this isn't art," she said, laying the book on the table.
The main point of contention was the proposed location for the monument, on the southern outcropping of Grundy Pier. Council members voiced concern that a 100-foot structure on the pier would obstruct the view corridor of New York City at the end of Montgomery Street.
"What they've claimed is that since it's on the peninsula part of the pier and not on the waterfront edge, that it is not blocking the view corridor," said Vega. "It goes out towards the river and then turns right, blocking the view."
Vega stressed that he appreciates art, and often defends art.
The debate became moot when the Department of Environmental Protection would not issue a permit for the monument, which was to be anchored in the river.
The location will be determined at a later date. The council voted unanimously on Wednesday to accept the gift regardless of future location.
Tsereteli will pay for construction of the structure himself. Wolf Popper LLP will raise money for the transportation and maintenance. The total cost is expected to be around $3 million.
"We will raise money for the installation and maintenance. The statue is bronze, so it requires little maintenance," said Madoff.
Tsereteli has a foundation dedicated to raising money for his work from corporate sponsors and other donors.
Kevin Eitel of Turner Construction in New York assured the council that Tsereteli has a crew of engineers who will ensure the structure is sound, allaying fears raised about a German-made crane that collapsed in the wind two years ago while it was doing construction work in Newport.
"We will have independent testing done, just like for a building," he said.
Madoff said that the artist hopes to have the monument standing by Sept. 11, 2004.
"After realizing what was happening, I felt it was important that we accept the piece," said Gaughan. "I felt it was a nice gesture between Russia and Jersey City, and I followed Mary Donnelly's lead that we should accept the piece and worry about the placement later on. Not being an art critic, I didn't find anything wrong with someone donating something to the city."