Rose crystal tower goes up in Union Square

Tower as seen from the west (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A new tower has just risen in Union Square, but unlike when this normally happens, there will be no howling about zoning and affordability.

The tower is actually a sculpture made out of nearly 350 rose-colored crystals and it debuted on Friday morning at an island east of Union Square Park.

“Rose Crystal Tower” was the creation of Dale Chihuly, whose career in the arts has spanned 56 years. It was done in partnership with Marlborough Gallery, the Union Square Partnership and the Parks Department, and will remain on view through October 2018.

At a ceremony unveiling the sculpture, which will be lit up at night through 16 lighting fixtures, Parks Commissioner Bill Castro noted the installation was part of the 50th anniversary for the city’s program of putting art in public spaces. At this time, over 1,300 artists have had their work on display through the program in 2,000 installations.

The ruby-hued structure, which stands at 31 feet high, reminded a few people looking at it of rock candy, which the artist seemed to agree with.

“It does kind of look like candy,” he said, while peering up at it. The crystals in the piece he’d made out of a plastic material to resemble glass, while actually being lighter. The materials weren’t new, though. He’d used the crystals previously in another art piece that consisted of 15 installations called “Chihuly and the Light of Jerusalem 2000.” This too was a public exhibition, in Jerusalem. Over the years, Chihuly’s work has been featured in over 200 museums around the world and he is known for his glass sculptures and architectural installations, including some in gardens.

Still, “Rose Crystal Tower” was a new experience for the artist.

“In all of my 76 years, I’ve never had a piece in a public place in New York City, and it’s a wonderful honor to be here,” Chihuly said on Friday, while accompanied by his wife Leslie.

Artist Dale Chihuly with wife Leslie

Earlier, Leslie had told the crowd that the crystals were used to represent “our strength and our fragility.”

Castro praised the installation, saying, “Coming from north of here, it really is quite a view. It really lifts up your spirits to see this piece of art. People will be noticing it far and wide as they enter the Union Square area.”

On October 21, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. the Parks Department will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the public art program with an event in Central Park offering over 100 workshops and performances for participants of all ages. The venue will be the East Penitum, which is located behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Currently, there are 56 art installations the city has organized on view throughout the city.

Chihuly plans to do an exhibition with the Marlborough Gallery in 2019.

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