Is José Parlá’s Mural at One World Trade Center the World’s Largest Welcome Mat?

José Parlá One: Union of the Senses, 2014 15 x 90 feet, acrylic, ink, enamel and plaster on MDF. Commissioned by One World Trade Center, New York City Photo by Rey Parlá © 2014 Parla Studios

José Parlá’s massive mural in the lobby of One World Trade Center behaves almost as a large welcome mat.

One World Trade opened its doors earlier this month, 13 years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and eight years after the construction began on a new tower. (It is notably the new home of Condé Nast publications.)

With all eyes on the $3.9 billion skyscraper, the choice of what kind of art to install was surprisingly tricky. Andrew Dermont, who helped advise on the project, told the Economist, “We were trying to put art in the building that we thought would be unifying, instead of divisive. We wanted it to accommodate everyone’s tastes.” A difficult mission, to say the least.

It was Asher Edelman, a financier (often cited as one of the inspirations for the character Gordon Gekko) and the owner of Edelman Arts who chose the Brooklyn-based painter Parlá for the project.

Parlá, who has previously painted murals at Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, worked on the piece for eight months in his studio and two weeks on-site. He wants the work, which is titled ONE: Union of the Senses, to stand as a symbol of diversity.

The lively, jewel-toned mural will greet an estimated 20,000 visitors a day. “I think that the role of the art is to create life within a building,” said Edelman, “It’s not just about white marble walls, it’s about spirit and life. From the building’s point of view, it’s about branding, and something that is beyond the simple walls.”

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