Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar, Columnade (1973)
Decidedly contemporary in both form and materials, Columnade consists of two rows of 17-foot-high cast concrete columns that link in a continuous serpentine form. Made of industrial supplies, Columnade was fabricated by Kenvil Newcrete Products and installed in the park in January and February of 1973. Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar (1922–2004) was a Colombian painter and sculptor working at the height of geometric abstraction in Latin America. Villamizar received a number of awards throughout his life, including the Guggenheim Prize for Colombia in 1958. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Villamizar became a regular on the international scene centered in New York City, with shows at MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum. A museum in Pamplona, Spain, is dedicated to his work. He is best known to Americans for his sculpture outside the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The sculpture commission was initiated in 1972 through Mayor John V. Lindsay’s Neighborhood Action Program in cooperation with a Washington Heights–Marble Hill community organization. A competition sponsored by the Public Arts Council and the Municipal Art Society, and an Environmental Art Program of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs awarded Ramirez the commission and a $5,000 prize.
In 2014, the Fort Tryon Park Trust partnered with NYC Parks’ Arts and Antiquities Division to restore the sculpture. Arts & Antiquities is cleaned and restored the original piece so it can be fully celebrated. Ramirez Villamizar’s work is also featured in the gardens of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. To visit Columnade, take a stroll past the New Leaf Restaurant and down the staircase towards Sir William’s Dog Run or walk up the park pathways from Broadway/Ellwood Street past the Gazebo.