Will Josef Albers’ Iconic Mural Return to Manhattan?

Josef Albers, After Nightfall (1948-1953) Courtesy of Phillips

Josef Albers’ legendary mural Manhattan could return to the New York City, the Art Newspaper reports. Created by the German artist and Bauhaus founder, it had graced the lobby MetLife Building’s lobby for 37 years, before being removed in 2000,

The World Trade Center Transit Hub is one of locations that is being considered, according to TAN. However Nicholas Fox Weber, executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, told artnet News: “The idea of re-creating the Albers mural in New York is very much alive, with various discussions under way, but there are no definitive plans as of the moment.”

Installed in the building in 1963, the mural—measuring 55-foot-wide and 28-foot-tall, and formed by hypnotizing black, red, and white squares—was removed when the lobby was renovated. At the time, a spokesman for MetLife Building declared that the tiles that formed the artwork contained asbestos, which is considered toxic.

The removal of the mural incited uproar from many commentators and art lovers. In 2001, Fox Weber, criticized the “destruction of a public masterpiece” in the New York Times, adding that he “felt physically punched,” after finding out about the plans.

The return of the modernist artwork to New York faces several challenges, as the original mural is currently in a landfill site in Ohio. Fortunately, Albers left behind detailed instructions for the recreation of the piece. According to the Art Newspaper, the Albers Foundation has already commissioned prototypes of the tiles from a manufacturer in Germany, and different locations are being considered.

Brenda Danilowitz, chief curator of the Albers Foundation told TAN: “We would like it to be in any permanent place, but [the mural] does belong in Manhattan—that’s where it was destined for”.

Albers created the mural as a homage to New York, the city where he emigrated to in 1933.

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