By JOHN T. WARD
Sergio Furnari’s “Lunchtime on a Skyscraper – A Tribute to America’s Heroes,” will sit atop a parapet at the rear of the Clay Street building, says Wanderlust Gallery owner Ken Schwartz, who also plans to add mad dashes of color in the form of murals to brighten up a drab stretch of garages and parking lots.
“I didn’t look at this as signage,” Schwartz told the planning board, which unanimously granted him variances for murals he plans to have painted on the long-vacant warehouse. “I look at it as the building itself being a piece of artwork.”
Schwartz, an art collector who owns the World Subaru car dealership in Tinton Falls, says the Furnari piece is one of about five created by the artist. It’s based on a 1932 photograph of ironworkers taking a lunch break on a steel beam 850 feet above the ground at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center.
Board members expressed few reservations about the use of the sculpture, wondering only if it might overhang the adjoining property, a parking lot little more than a foot away. Schwartz said it would not.
Of greater concern were the murals that will grace three sides of the 8,000-square-foot building. Board engineer Christine Ballard told board members that because local ordinances don’t differentiate between signage and artwork, they would have to.
Schwartz defended the loud imagery.
“I knew I should take this ugly building and do something fantastic, at least by my standards, and at the same time let people know there’s a gallery there,” he said.
But he got no resistance from board members, who praised both the planned use of the building as well as its exterior treatment.
“I consider it art, because it doesn’t reference the name of the gallery,” said vice chairman Dan Mancuso.
Still, should the artwork be altered or replaced, Schwartz will have to submit his plans to the town for review, the board agreed.
Schwartz, who lives on Wallace Street, two blocks from the warehouse, told redbankgreen he hopes to have the gallery open by November. It will be managed by artist Tara Amelchenko.
“I’m a little nuts for doing this,” he acknowledged, adding that his aim was to create a showplace particularly for young artists.
“This is a total gamble, but it is what it is,” he said. “I have a passion for art, for helping up-and-coming artists, and I’m supporting this with my day job.”
Here’s the trailer to a 2012 film about the beam photo: