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Swinging ’60s sculpture, Astor Place ‘Cube’ to spin again

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Remember “The Alamo” — the iconic “Cube” sculpture at Astor Place?

Well, it was removed Monday night, May 8, and is headed back to the shop yet again, in hopes that it will return by this summer and be spinnable once more.

The Department of Transportation said “The Cube” will be refurbished off site and be brought back to Astor Place by August. The restoration costs are being underwritten by the Tony Rosenthal Art Estate, controlled by the family of the sculptor behind the iconic piece of public art. The sculpture, formally called “The Alamo,” was originally installed at the East Village site — then just a traffic island — 56 years ago.

Over the coming months, Versteeg Art Fabricators will conduct a full restoration of the sculpture.

D.O.T. Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and the Tony Rosenthal Art Estate made the announcement on May 9.

“The Cube” was removed again on the night of May 8. (NYC DOT)

The sculpture was always popular for its interactivity — it could be spun if several people pushed it. But for the past year, as The Village Sun previously reported, the artwork has sat bolted in place because the spinning mechanism was not working properly.

“We are delighted to share the news of ‘The Cube’’s restoration this year,” Rodriguez said. “We are especially grateful for the generosity of the family of the late Tony Rosenthal, the incredibly talented sculptor.  Rosenthal’s artistic vision in the 1960s has managed to capture the imagination and spirit of the whole East Village community for decades with an iconic sculpture that is best enjoyed when it is touched and spun with friends.  I look forward to ‘The Cube’’s return to Astor Place in time for Summer Streets 2023 in August — when New Yorkers can once again join together and spin.’”

“Generations of New Yorkers have taken ‘The Cube’ for a spin, and we’re thrilled that D.O.T. and Tony Rosenthal’s estate have reached an agreement to refurbish the iconic sculpture so it can keep spinning for generations to come,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “Public art is integral to the vibrancy of New York’s public spaces, and the restoration of ‘The Cube’ ensures that its singular presence will continue to enliven and define this bustling corner of the city.”

“As a gift to the City of New York, Cynthia Rosenthal fully embraced the initial idea to fund the restoration of ‘The Alamo,’” said David Petrie, the Tony Rosenthal Art Estate’s director.  “The partnership between the city — D.O.T. — and the estate brings a fresh vibe to the renaissance of the artist, Tony Rosenthal.”

The 1,800-pound, 8-foot-by-8-foot-by-8-foot sculpture was originally fabricated in 1967 by Tony Rosenthal (1914-2009) as part of the former Sculpture and Environmentalism program established under the Office of Cultural Affairs of the city’s Parks Department.  As D.O.T.’s “plaza partner,” the Village Alliance business improvement district has supported the artwork with daily maintenance, such as cleaning graffiti off of it. The  proposal to conserve and restore the artwork was O.K.’d by the city’s Public Design Commission on March 20.

Versteeg Art Fabricators had previously restored the “The Cube” in 2005. The sculpture was last removed in 2014 by D.O.T. and the Department of Design and Construction during the reconstruction of Astor Place, when D.O.T. created a permanent car-free plaza space. The sculpture was reinstalled in the plaza in 2016, when D.O.T. formally acquired maintenance responsibilities as part of the agency’s permanent art portfolio, of which there are 23 works.

“The world keeps spinning — and so will ‘The Alamo Cube’!” said Scott Hobbs, executive director of the Village Alliance. “We are incredibly grateful to the Estate of Tony Rosenthal for working alongside Mayor Adams’s administration and the New York City Department of Transportation to ensure that the restoration stays true to the artist’s original vision. We are thrilled that the city is restoring one of New York City’s most recognizable and beloved public art sculptures. The ‘Alamo Cube’ has been an iconic landmark in the Village for decades, and the Village Alliance can’t wait for it to spin again.”

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