Unity Through Abstraction: One World Trade Center’s Inaugural Art Collection

With all the care and expense that attended the design and 13-year construction of the prismatic One World Trade Center, it’s no surprise the art that hangs in the building—which opened late last year—would be carefully considered. Curated by New York gallery Edelman Arts to complement the building’s light-filled spaces with their high ceilings and white marble, the 13 artworks on display provide a playful and colorful counterbalance to the tower’s stately architecture.

  • José Parlá ONE: Union of the Senses 2014 Acrylic, Ink, Gesso and Enamel Paint on Wood. 14.5 feet by 90 feet

The pieces that hang in One World Trade Center, all large-scale, abstract works, were chosen for their ability to jolt World Trade tenants out of their daily grind—as the gallery’s founder, Asher Edelman, has said, the works were selected to inspire passersby “to look up from their hand-held devices and actually look around them.”

  • Fritz Bultman Gravity of Nightfall 1961 Oil on Canvas – 3 panels 96 x 144 in

To that effect, the centerpiece for the lobby—a mural that spans a staggering 90 feet—was created by the painter José Parlá, known for his jubilant, massive works in which paint and paper are layered to create abstract works subtly reminiscent of the wheatpastes and graffiti that pepper Brooklyn, where the artist resides. With swooping, intricate lines and splashes of kaleidoscopic color, Parlá’s painting, titled ONE: Union of the Senses (2014), stands as a potent reminder of the New York that breathes outside the new tower’s walls.

The “sky lobby” on the 64th floor is an airy and tranquil space—with north-facing, wall-sized windows, it feels suspended in midair. For the space, Greg Goldberg—some of whose drawings are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art—has created a series of site-specific oil paintings over the course of several months. Goldberg paints largely using natural light, layering stripes of intersection color and tuning them over long periods of time in order to catch the sun’s rays. These paintings have been similarly rendered to act in dialogue with their surroundings.

All the works on display at One World Trade Center, including pieces by Doug Argue, Fritz Bultman, and Bryan Hunt, have been selected not only to complement the muted and classically influenced architecture at the long-awaited former site of the World Trade Center, but to express the building’s universal ethos. As Andrew Dermont, one of Edelman Arts’s curators, explained, “We were trying to put art in the building that we thought would be unifying, instead of divisive. We wanted it to accommodate everyone’s tastes.”

Molly Osberg

Follow Edelman Arts on Artsy.

Image credits: José Parlá, ONE: Union of the Senses, 2014. Acrylic, Ink, Gesso and Enamel Paint on Wood. 14.5 feet by 90 feet; Fritz Bultman, Gravity of Nightfall, 1961. Oil on Canvas – 3 panels 96 x 144 in.

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