In the winter of 1969, New York City got its first sidewalk sculpture. There had been public art out in the open air prior to that, of course, but this was the first permitted piece that was designated to a public sidewalk space. The two-ton piece stood 6-feet-high, and was made of marble—artist Gonzalo Fonseca was commissioned by the Twentieth Century Fund to create it, and by December of that year it stood tall outside of their Manhattan headquarters.
The NY Times reported, "The city's first sidewalk sculpture has been planted in the pavement before 41 East 70th Street." At the unveiling, the city's Administrator of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs asked, "Kiosks and street furniture are accepted, why shouldn't people expect to meet a piece of sculpture on the sidewalk?" The Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs had also been responsible for bringing the Alamo to the Astor Place traffic island two years earlier.
While the original plan was to bring the sculpture—which was simply titled: Sculpture—to the company's private garden, they eventually decided on the sidewalk so that the public may also enjoy it. Or even tag it, if they wished. The white column-esque piece was a bit of a blank slate, and Fonseca encourage the public to add their own contributions to it. The Times noted that, "Fonesca has already adorned the surface with delicate graffiti." And the sculptor announced himself, "I hope that people will add their own touches to it. I don't want it protected like a museum object. It's there to be used and disposed of. I don't even care if dogs use it as a hydrant."
The sculpture is no longer there, and we've reached out to the Parks Department to find out where it is now (likely with the Century Fund)—we'll update when we hear back.