Josef Albers’s Manhattan mural could return to New York

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World Trade Center Transit Hub among possible sites being considered

Manhattan in the Pan Am Building

Josef Albers’s Manhattan, a mural that enlivened the lobby of New York’s Met Life (previously the Pan Am) Building from 1963 until its controversial removal in 2000, could make a triumphant return to the city. Possible sites include the World Trade Center Transit Hub, The Art Newspaperunderstands. Finding a suitable home for the work is not the only obstacle: the original mural is in a landfill site in Ohio.

Officials from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation met with leaders from the city’s Percent for Art programme this autumn to find a site for a new version of the 55-foot-wide, 28-foot-tall mural of interlocking black, red and white squares. A spokesman for New York City’s department of cultural affairs, which manages the Percent for Art programme, says: “While we’d love to return this remarkable piece to public display, discussions are too preliminary to speculate on any particular outcome.”

The emigre German architect Walter Gropius commissioned fellow Bauhaus professor Josef Albers to create the mural. Taken down in 2000when the lobby was redesigned, the mural panels were put into storage but attempts to relocate the work in sites as varied as the former World Trade Center and Penn Station were unsuccessful. All but one of the formica panels finally ended up in the Minerva Enterprises Landfill in Waynesburg, Ohio, in 2012, after the foundation’s attempt to remove asbestos from the backs of the panels caused them to shatter.

Albers left detailed instructions for the work’s refabrication before his death in 1976, however, and the Albers foundation has commissioned a prototype of a new panel from a manufacturer in Germany. A search is now underway to find a proper location. “We would like it to be in any permanent place, but it does belong in Manhattan—that’s where it was destined for,” says Brenda Danilowitz, the chief curator of the Albers Foundation. She says the work’s scale and materials can be adjusted to fit an indoor or outdoor site.

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