NYC’s first ever piece of sidewalk art appeared in December 1969

Posted On Thu, December 1, 2016 By

Posted On Thu, December 1, 2016 By In Art, History

Image Archives of the Century

Sidewalks and street art are pretty much synonymous in modern day New York City, but have you ever stopped to question when it all started? In the winter of 1969, New York City saw the birth of the sidewalk sculpture. While public art in an outdoor setting was not necessarily a new concept, this was the very first time it was situated immediately on the sidewalk. The work was a marble sculpture made by artist Gonzalo Fonseca, commissioned by the Twentieth Century Fund. Upon completion, it stood six feet outside of the organization’s headquarters and weighed a whopping two tons.


nyc first sidewalk art, Gonzalo Fonesca, Twentieth Century FundImage Archives of the Century

The Times covered the unveiling, writing in December 1969: “The city’s first sidewalk sculpture has been planted in the pavement before 41 East 70th Street.” The work was originally intended to live inside the company’s private garden, however, it was later decided that the sculpture be widely visible for public enjoyment.

nyc first sidewalk art, Gonzalo Fonesca, Twentieth Century FundPhotograph of Gonzalo Fonseca at his studio, 1980, Photo © Cheryl Rossum

The piece was a huge white column and considered a blank slate. As such, the organizers and Fonseca encouraged the public to contribute to the artwork. “I hope that people will add their own touches to it,” the artist had announced. “I don’t want it protected like a museum object. It’s there to be used and disposed of. I don’t even care if dogs use it as a hydrant.” To get the ball rolling, Fonseca adorned the surface with some light graffiti.

While the sculpture no longer exists in its original location, its impact on our vibrant street art culture lives on.

[Via Gothamist]

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