Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

The Lost Art of 9/11 September 11, 2008

Seven years ago today. Hard to believe it’s been seven years.

I know we all remember too well where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. And watching the coverage today, the feelings and emotions come flooding back. Strange, it just doesn’t seem like seven years.

Through my artistic interests, I’ve run across ties into world events. Strangely enough, the first time I had heard of the Taliban, I was reading a copy of “Art News” at the job I held at the time. It was a short article about a small sect of religious zealots that had blown up these amazing Buddha statues. I remember at the time, thinking how twisted people must be to destroy such amazing and ancient works. Little did I know they were capable of so much more evil.

Among the almost 3,000 lives that were extinguished seven year ago, $100 million in art was lost as well.

Right, I know that art is meaningless when compared to a human life, and that’s not my point here. Art goes on as does our lives as survivors. Another painting can be painted, another sculpture sculpted; not so with the human lives that were snuffed out on that day.

Still, it’s rather astounding how much great art was contained in those two buildings in lower Manhattan. Among the 9/11 art losses:

– “The World Trade Center Tapestry” by Spanish Artist Joan Miro – one of two the artist ever created.

"World Trade Center Tapestry" by Joan Miro'

-“The Entablature Series” Roy Lichtenstein

– Paintings by Pablo Picasso and David Hockney were also destroyed

– B Gerald Cantor, the namesake of Cantor Fitzgerald, was the largest private collector of Rodin sculptures. A portion of this collection, some 300 sculptures as well as drawings, was lost in the attack.

– “Recollection Pond” – a tapestry by Romare Bearden

– approximately 40,000 negatives of photography by Jacques Lowe documenting the Presidency of John F. Kennedy

“Bent Propeller” by Alexander Calder, a 25 foot sculpture that was exhibited in the courtyard, survived, although it was crushed by falling debris. Though most of the bent remains is co-mingled with portions of the debris of the WTC, Calder’s grandson has vowed to restore it if enough pieces are found. It is thought that the rest of the sculpture is at the Fresh Kills site on Staten Island, the location where theWTC debris was relocated and sorted. There is conjecture about the restoration of the sculpture — some think it should be restored, some think it shouldn’t – while others think the current condition of the piece is now an unintentional work, created by tragedy. I guess I find myself siding on the final of the three views. The event marked the piece with a brushstroke of history, if you will.

Calder sculpture before 9/11

Calder sculpture before 9/11

Calder sculpture after 9/11

Calder sculpture after 9/11

Perhaps the best known piece of art from the WTC is “The Sphere” by German artist Fritz Koenig — it survived although it is badly mangled and is now on display, dents and all, with an eternal flame at the 9/11 memorial in Battery Park.

The Sphere after 9/11

The Sphere after 9/11

From the artistic standpoint, I always seem to view things a little differently.

Call it looking for something hopeful and beautiful out of something so horrible — perhaps that’s a poor choice of words — but the way I see it, out of great tragedy, comes some of the great art of the world — that’s the thought that crossed my mind as I immersed myself in news coverage.

I came across this link today, buried in the stories on the internet — it’s a slideshow of many of the memorials made from the steel from the World Trade Center — and it’s worth a look.

And, of course, as you view all this art, and all the aftermath, take time to remember the people who lost their lives in the tragedy.


7 Responses to “The Lost Art of 9/11”

  1. madsilence Says:

    Interesting. I never knew so much art was contained in the Twin Towers. Art & culture suffer in war. And yet a “A nation stays alive when its culture and history stay alive.”


  2. Matt Mikulla Says:

    Interesting post. I had never thought about the art at the WTC.

    I first heard about the Taliban pre 9/11 in an article written by a photojournalist who snuck a camera into Afghanistan towns, cities, and villages to document. The possession of photographs, even of loved ones, and cameras was forbidden and punishable by death.

    We all have our reasons for cause and those reasons often relate to who we are. As an artist and photographer I believe people should be free. I strongly support the war against Islamists (not all muslims) because they are an enemy to my beliefs and morals and freedom.

    Europe is on the fast track to falling into Muslim control withing the next 50 years through western weakness, political correctness, immigration, and overwhelming Muslim birth rates.

    Sharia law is superseding british law already in Britain. There are many Muslim areas surrounding Paris France where police and medics can not enter because they will be assaulted. These areas are famous for the 2005-2007 rioting where 112 cars on average were torched a day.

    It is my belief that Art History will be in dire jeopardy within our lifetime unless we prepare and fight now.

  3. missbethd Says:

    All very valid points Matt… but what about censorship in our own country in regards to people who are “offended” by artistic expressions.

    I’ve often used the example that if Michaelangelo sculpted his “David” today, the right wing conservatives would be up in arms regarding the nudity of the piece.

    For an example more timely and close to home, think about the critical reaction the Musica statue at the Music Row roundabout received. Personally, I hate it and think it looks like it was pilfered from an eastern block country, but this has nothing to do with the content of the piece.

    It’s frightening to see things such as the examples you listed happening in other countries, but for the censorship to occur in our own country, where freedom of speech and expression are at the top of our constitution? Unacceptable and unlawful.

  4. Matt Mikulla Says:

    What artistic censorship?

    There is a big difference between censorship and freedom of speech in the private arena vs. the public arena. You have every right to say what you want anywhere but expect consequences either way.

    If the musica piece offended anyone and the plans were scrapped that is fair game. It is a public sculpture paid for by you and me. Actually, the money was stolen from us by the government.

    This is exactly the reason I don’t support publicly funded artwork. Money stolen from all of us by force to fund crap we have no say in. That is not what the government’s purpose is and never should be.

    I honestly worry way less about right wing conservative censorship than I do left wing censorship. The left generally believe, in the back of their minds, that freedom of speech exists only when that speech is something they agree with. One perfect example of the left’s censorship strategy is the push to re-install the The Fairness Doctrine.

    Just the Libertarian in me.

  5. missbethd Says:

    “stolen from us by the government” — yeah, I want the tax money that’s was “stolen” from me that funds public schools, as I don’t have any children and don’t benefit. Also, I get no say into the curriculum — that makes about as much sense as it would for me to complain about public art.

    All that aside – and I do see where you’re coming from and respect your point off view – my issue lies with the fact that a small few want to tell the rest of us what is acceptable forms of art. That’s not cool – to me, at least.

    I do agree with you on this point: “The left generally believe, in the back of their minds, that freedom of speech exists only when that speech is something they agree with.” Well said.

  6. “The Lost Art of 9/11 Design Drama” was indeed a extremely nice posting,
    . Keep posting and I am going to continue to keep viewing!
    I appreciate it ,Rachele

  7. Quentin Says:

    “The Lost Art of 9/11 | Design Drama” was indeed a superb read and
    thus I personally was indeed truly joyful to come across it.
    Thank you-Carole

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