Discovering Columbus goes down as one of the coolest things I’ve done in New York City. The art installation, presented by Public Art Fund, is the brainchild of artist Tatzu Nishi. He’s known internationally for his temporary works of art on monuments, statues and architectural details, but this is his first work in the United States.

In Discovering Columbus, Nishi  situated the Christopher Columbus statue, unveiled in 1892, in a fully furnished living room, designing and curating every detail. You climb up 75 feet of stairs to enter the room, taking in remarkable views of Central Park and the Upper West Side. But the real star is the 13 feet Christopher Columbus statue, posed as confidently on a coffee table as in his natural habitat.

On opening morning, Nishi was quietly surveying the scene in the room and observing how the visitors were exploring his artwork. I spoke to him about the incredible transformation of Columbus Circle since I first moved to Lincoln Center in 1993–from a place that was dangerous and abandoned to the bustling place it is now. Through his interpreter, he asked what Untapped New York was about, and I said it was about “Rediscovering your city. About architecture, urbanism, and culture.” He smiled and said, “Well then, this, [pointing to the room around us] is exactly it!”

Artist Tatzu Nishi at Discovering Columbus

The intimacy of the living room decor was only matched by Nishi’s willingness to speak to everyone who approached him about his work. Through his interpreter, he told us “I didn’t choose Columbus, but I chose this location and this great statue.  I know Columbus had two sides [to his persona] but  it was not my intention to raise this discussion.”

The walls were decorated with wallpaper of Nishi’s own design, “inspired by memories of American popular culture, having watched Hollywood movies and television as a child in Japan.”

The printed art included vintage images of Columbus Circle, and art by Pollock and Kandinsky.

Discovering Columbus will be September 20 to November 18th. Tickets to see Discovering Columbus  are free but must be reserved either online or at the kiosk in the Columbus Circle Time Warner Center. More information here.

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.