Tishman Speyer Unveils Restored American Progress Mural at 30 Rockefeller Plaza | Announcements | Tishman Speyer


Tishman Speyer Unveils Restored American Progress Mural at 30 Rockefeller Plaza

New York, NY May 6, 2010

Mural is Centerpiece of Major Three-Year Public Art Restoration Project at Rockefeller Center

Tishman Speyer, co-owner of Rockefeller Center, today unveiled the newly restored American Progress mural in the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The stunning mural, which was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and painted by Spanish artist Jose Maria Sert in 1933, is the centerpiece of 16,000 square feet of public art located on the walls, staircases, mezzanine and ceiling of the building.

“Rockefeller Center is not only an architectural masterpiece, but also a vast gallery of important artworks that the public can freely enjoy,” said Rob Speyer, President and Co-CEO, Tishman Speyer. “As stewards of this public artwork of magnificent proportions, Tishman Speyer is pleased to offer New Yorkers and visitors alike the opportunity to see this art as the artists and designers originally envisioned it. This is truly one of the major art restoration projects in New York City history.”

American Progress is the main focal point of the lobby, measuring over 16 feet high and 41 feet long. A vast allegorical scene depicting the development of America during the past 300 years, the mural prominently features two great Americans: Abraham Lincoln (standing on the left center) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (seated below Lincoln). American Progress portrays the collaboration of idealists and labor. On the right, small figures are raising heroic statues of three muses: poetry, music and dance, representing creative energy and man’s dreams. On the left, looking toward the soil for strength, men of action are raising colossal statues representing labor.

Tishman Speyer commissioned art conservationists Evergreene Architectural Arts to restore the murals. “Overall, the works of art had been in stable condition, and the main conservation concern was the polyurethane coating that was applied to the panels in the 1970s,” said Jeff Greene, President of Evergreene Architectural Arts. “The removal of this degraded and inferior varnish restored the space to the artists’ original vision for the interior of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.”

Evergreene Architectural Arts started the conservation and restoration process by executing a pilot project to determine the feasibility and most appropriate methodology for the removal of the coating. It found that the varnish could be removed by mechanical means; specifically, electric toothbrushes were used to meticulously clean the murals one inch at a time. In July 2008, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission gave approval to conserve the entire mural series in a two-year project.

To date, the wall murals have been completed, and the difference between the restored murals and the untouched ceiling and elevator bank murals is staggering. The ceiling restoration will begin later this week.

American Progress is one of 16 murals by Jose Maria Sert and British artist Frank Brangwyn relating to the theme of New Frontiers. Brangwyn’s four murals depict the ethical development of man and express man’s relationship to society and his fellow man. Sert’s 12 murals represent development of technological power. While they are individual works of art, the murals all relate to each other. Designer Edward Trumbull and an art committee determined the color palette—black, white and gray—materials, and method of painting (chiaroscuro). Canvases were shipped from New York to Europe, where the artists painted the murals.

Tishman Speyer is the co-owner and manager of Rockefeller Center, the world-famous real estate, shopping and dining complex in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Rockefeller Center is the site of numerous public exhibits and events, including large-scale installations of public art by world-renowned artists, including Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons and Jonathan Borofsky. Tishman Speyer has earned a worldwide reputation for innovative utilization of public art in its signature commercial properties, which include Rockefeller Center and Chrysler Center. Tishman Speyer is committed to the preservation and restoration of Rockefeller Center and recently refurbished and reopened the historic Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center, making it one of New York’s top attractions. Each day an estimated 350,000 people visit the Rockefeller Plaza complex, which during the holidays is home to the most famous Christmas tree in the world.