Artist’s Foundation Seeks Return of ‘Sphere’ to World Trade Center Site

By David W. Dunlap New York Times

“The chorus voicing a pledge for the return of the ‘Sphere’ to its original place at the W.T.C. has reached as far as Landshut, Lower Bavaria, Germany,” the letter begins. That’s a consequential destination because it is the home of Fritz Koenig, the sculptor of the World Trade Center “Sphere,” and of his museum and foundation.

The letter, sent Tuesday, states that the Fritz and Maria Koenig Foundation is “officially joining the growing number of people and personalities who want to help to bring the ‘Sphere’ back to its rightful place, the W.T.C. site.”

This puts Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Patricia A. Harris, who have prided themselves in their commitment to public art, in the potentially awkward position of appearing to turn deaf ears to a request relayed on behalf of an internationally celebrated, 88-year-old artist.

Mr. Koenig’s 25-foot-high “Sphere for a Plaza Fountain” was commissioned in 1968 for the World Trade Center. It stood for three decades as the centerpiece of the vast plaza, framed by the twin towers. Though badly damaged on September 11, 2001, it survived in recognizable form and has been seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors to Battery Park, where it has stood since March 2002.

It is understood that Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Harris oppose returning the “Sphere” to the trade center site, an opposition that carries extra weight since the mayor is the chairman of the foundation for the 9/11 Memorial now there and Ms. Harris serves on the foundation’s board. They have not publicly explained their position, though Mr. Bloomberg volunteered in May that the “Sphere” looked beautiful in Battery Park.

The park is scheduled to undergo a renovation that will displace the sculpture. But no city or state agency has taken responsibility for deciding where the “Sphere” will go, now or in the long run. This month, a group of guerrilla volunteers felt compelled to clean the sculpture of bird droppings and a dead pigeon before the annual September 11 observance.

Reinhard Sax, the general manager of the Koenig foundation, said in his letter (co-signed by the mayor of Landshut) that the “Sphere” belonged at the site for which it was designed:

We strongly feel the need for the victims’ families and friends to be able to not to lose sight of the only witness that represents the workplace of their loved ones. It needs to be present, as a touchstone, as a direct visible link to their personal history and the history of New York and the world.

We think that this sculpture, in its brutally transformed shape and state, needs to be exposed to the touch of people. It holds the power of a witness, of a victim and ultimately of a survivor.

Although top officials will say nothing publicly about the “Sphere,” back-channel communiqués suggest some movement. The chief curator for the 9/11 Memorial, Jan Seidler Ramirez, responding to a letter from Mr. Sax, wrote that “there are a number of ideas in serious discussion regarding the relocation” of the sculpture and that “some of the most viable of these options” were described in a City Room post on Aug. 17 that raised the possibility of relocating the “Sphere” to a small plaza alongside 1 World Trade Center, within view but outside the grounds of the memorial proper.

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