The name of Zurab Tsereteliis not, today, well known in New York City. But that relative anonymityis likely to change as the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches thisfall.
Tsereteli is the Russian artist who has conceived, designed, constructed—and, it turns out, paid for—the extraordinary monument To The Struggle Against World Terrorism thatis currently under construction on the waterfront in Bayonne Harbor,N.J. At the ceremonial ground breaking last September, no less a figurethan Vladimir Putin was on hand and called the sculpture “a gift from the people of Russia.”
Since then, Tsereteli and his considerable team have beenhard at work: The various components of the monument have beenconstructed in three different factories in Russia, the parts have beenshipped here in sections by sea, and it is currently beingreconstructed in what will be a landscaped park in the heart of a newresidential and commercial district in this city just across the HudsonRiver from Manhattan.
Tsereteli, an enormously experienced and prolific artist,is a true celebrity in Russia, and his work, particularly his publicsculptures, are sited prominently all over the world. But moreremarkable than where they are is the seemingly endless and effortlessrange of styles that he can muster if the mood suits him. He can doeverything from a bronze Donatello relief to a Picasso junk construction and pretty much anything else in between.
But what he’s come up with for his 9/11 monument is sounfamiliar to anyone accustomed to normal expectations of publicsculpture that it is actually a little difficult to take in. Standing100-feet high, a rectangular bronze tower appears violently crackeddown its middle, and hanging in the gap is a 40-foot long, elongated,stainless steel teardrop.
The whole work stands atop an 11-sided black marble plinth,into which are carved the names of everyone who died on 9/11, plusthose who died in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. It will beclearly visible from Battery Park, from the Statue of Liberty, from theStaten Island Ferry—and from planes approaching Newark Airport. Atnight it will be brightly lit.
As remarkable as the audacity of Tsereteli’s vision is thestraightforwardness with which he has brought this creation off. Whileeveryone is still arguing with everyone else down at the World TradeCenter site, Zurab Tsereteli has spent $12 million of his own money,and teams of Russian and American workmen are preparing the finalsurface finish of his monument—and already installing a test version ofits final lighting system.
And regardless of the public mood on the fifth anniversaryof the collapse of the Twin Towers, you can assume that there will bequite a turn out for the unveiling. Putin may not show again, butRussia is sending his second-in-command. And Tsereteli counts BillClinton as a good friend, and he knows everyone from Kofi Annan toRobert de Niro.
I can’t wait for the public reaction to this most unusual, highly prominent memorial.