NEW YORK -- Anyone hoping to commune with Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day will be disappointed: He's booked solid. Monday's tickets to the conceptual art installation that surrounds a 13-foot statue of the explorer with a well-appointed living room have all been snapped up.
The exhibit, "Discovering Columbus" by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, has become a must-see cultural attraction in New York since it opened Sept. 20. Some 20,000 people have made the walk up six flights of stairs for the up-close view of Columbus, as well as the unique views of Midtown Manhattan and Central Park.
"Living room in the sky? I thought `Cool. Check it out,'" said business analyst Brianna Goodman, who visited this past week. "I would never have thought to build a living room around a statue, but it made it like an intimate setting. And then the view from up there!"
Artist Martha Bone said the walk up and down the stairs was well worth it. "It was one of the best installations I've ever seen. ... It's my city. I like to know what's going on in it."
The exhibit is being presented by the city's Public Art Fund, and free timed tickets can be reserved at http://www.publicartfund.org. Another 80,000 are slated to see the exhibit before it ends Nov. 18.
"What I have been absolutely thrilled about is that I think the project has really captured the imagination of New York," said Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume.
Not everyone is a fan. John Mancini, executive director of the Italic Institute of America, said the artwork turns the 1892 statue by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo into "a stage prop."
"How can one artist hijack the work of another artist?" he complained.
The statue rests on a 60-foot granite column at the southwest corner of Central Park. Columbus' marble features usually are visible only from afar.
For his first installation in the United States, Nishi has perched Columbus' home atop scaffolding that encases the column.
The statue rises out of a large coffee table so that it seems to preside over a highbrow salon. Pink wallpaper, designed by the artist, depicts American icons Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King Jr.
Because Time Warner Inc. and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's media company are sponsors, the magazines include Bloomberg Business Week and the TV is on CNN with the sound on low. Fresh newspapers are laid out every day
Visitors can plop themselves on the sectional, admire the views and scan the titles on Columbus' bookshelves, which include Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" and books about baseball and American history.
"I was really enjoying trying to figure out who are these people who live in this apartment," said art therapist Bonnie Hirschhorn. "I was picturing some New York City intellectual."