Rescuing the Lost Art of 9/11

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Thumbnail Image -  The Sphere in Battery Park

The Three Shades have been to hell and back. 

In Dante Alighieri’s legendary Divine Comedy, the souls of the dead (or ‘shades’ in the original Italian) stand before the gates of the underworld, their presence a precursor to the warning inscribed below: “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” It’s these spectral harbingers that inspired Auguste Rodin’s eponymous The Three Shades, the massive sculpture Rodin worked on for 37 years until his death in 1917. Tortured and tormented, a trio of sentries stood atop The Gates of Hell, lamenting their damnation in the fire and brimstone.

Nearly 100 years later, a bronze cast of The Three Shades was plunged into another inferno. According to a report painstakingly assembled by the recently dissolved Heritage Emergency National Task Force, in the weeks and months after the World Trade Center collapsed during the September 11th terrorist attacks, the art world experienced a cataclysmic loss. Works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and Le Corbusier graced the walls of the Twin Towers, and were obliterated in the tragedy; a sprawling tapestry by Joan Miro that hung in the lobby of 2 World Trade Center was demolished when the building came down around it. Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokerage firm which lost some 650 employees that day, was home to a vast collection of Rodin’s works; from the artist’s drawings to the original Three Shades, which welcomed visitors to the firm’s lobby on the 105th floor of the North Tower. The task force estimated that a staggering $100 million in art from private collections, and an additional $10 million worth of public art was lost in the tragedy.




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