Thousands of New Yorkers have probably walked by this vibrant artwork every day — featuring Spanish ceramic tiles — at the 59th Street Columbus Circle Station, without knowing its artistic significance and the technical challenge the project posed. Unveiled in 2009, this stunning art installation was created by American artist Sol LeWitt for the MTA Arts for Transit program. Titled “Whirls and Twirls (MTA),” the artwork is 53 feet wide by 11 feet high and consists of 250 Spanish porcelain tiles, in six colors, each cut to meet the artist’s specifications.
What’s important to note, is that the deep saturated tones used in the original wall drawing (shown below) were created using acrylic paint and LeWitt had never before recreated these colors using porcelain tile. To overcome the color challenge, LeWitt and his team had to look outside the US, to a Spanish manufacturer to recreate the perfect color intensity needed for this artwork. Shortly before his death in 2007, LeWitt personally supervised the color samples for the tiles produced by Tile of Spain branded manufacturer Alcalagres.
Sandra Bloodworth, Director of Arts for Transit and Facilities Design, said: “This project was filled with challenges, as we prepared several samples of tile and glazes to meet with Mr. LeWitt’s approval and found a facility that could produce large tiles mandated by the design.”
Here is just another example of how a Spanish tile manufacturer provided the technological ability — achieving the most accurate colors — to create a superior end result.