Rob Speyer, President and Co-CEO of Tishman Speyer, co-owners of Rockefeller Center, announced today a three-year project to restore the iconic murals gracing the walls of the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the crown jewel of the Rockefeller Center complex.
“Rockefeller Center is not only an architectural masterpiece, but it is also a gallery of important works of art that the public can freely enjoy,” said Rob Speyer. “As the stewards of this public art work of magnificent proportions, we decided to restore the space to the artists’ and designers’ original vision. This will truly be one of the major art restoration projects in New York City history.
Tishman Speyer commissioned EverGreene Painting Studios to restore the 30 Rockefeller Plaza murals. “Overall, the Jose Sert and Frank Brangwyn murals have been in stable condition, with the main concern being the varnish that was applied in the 1970s,” said Jeff Greene of EverGreene Painting Studio. “The removal of all the yellow and brown-toned varnish will result in a dramatically changed interior of this landmark.”
The Jose Sert and Frank Brangwyn murals, total of more than 16,000 square feet of canvas located on the walls, staircases, mezzanine and ceiling of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, were commissioned by John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1933. The murals have a unifying theme, “New Frontiers,” encompassing all aspects of American society: labor, science, communication, culture, spirituality, travel and history. Sert and Brangwyn painted the murals in their studios in Paris and London, respectively. Designer Edward Trumbull determined a set color scheme and oversaw the installation of the murals.
“After the murals started emerging clean and restored, we saw the color scheme as it was originally intended,” said Rob Speyer. “Suddenly, the marble pillars match the color of the murals, and the entire lobby comes together in a whole new, bright light.”
EverGreene Painting Studio started the conservation and restoration process by executing a six-month 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, eco-friendly means. Bone folders, hand-held instruments typically used in bookbinding, were found to be the most effective tool to methodically clean the murals inch by inch. 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, ten wall murals have been completed, and the difference between the restored murals and the untouched panels is staggering. Work on American Progress, arguably the most famous of the murals, will begin this fall. The ceiling restoration will commence in early 2010.
About Tishman Speyer:
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.
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