The East Village breathed a sigh of relief this week as the beloved Astor Place Alamo, affectionately known as “The Cube”, has returned to its perch. As previously reported by AN, the interactive sculpture seemingly vanished in May when in the evening hours it was hoisted from its location, loaded onto the bed of a truck, and taken away for repairs. Left in its place was a single sign saying the art piece would return later in the summer. The Cube has now returned and equipped with a new apparatus it can spin once again.
Originally installed on the site as a temporary piece, the sculpture has stood on the corner of Astor Place for 56 years. It was designed by the late artist Tony Rosenthal as part of the former Sculpture and Environmentalism program in 1967. Rosenthal originally titled it Sculpture in Environment, this name was rechristened to Alamo (Cube) by Cynthia Rosenthal, the artist’s wife, after she noted that the sculpture reminded her of the Texas fort with its imposing size at 8 feet all around and a weight of 1,800 pounds.
The sculpture has become a staple of the East Village community, and a go-to New York experience. Described by the artist as “a friendly object,” Alamo (Cube) has always welcomed tourists, students, and city residents to engage with it, specifically with the way it spins.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) was responsible for the safe transport of the sculpture and the repairs, and shared images on Twitter of a small ceremony on site to re-unveil the sculpture upon its return.
The sculpture is popular for its interactivity, with a mechanism that allows it to spin when pushed by several people but for the last year that mechanism had stopped working. The cube was restored to its spinning glory over the last few months by Versteeg Art Fabricators. pic.twitter.com/HH6MhsoHMK
— NYC DOT (@NYC_DOT) July 18, 2023
The DOT and the Rosenthal Estate reached an agreement to make repairs the boxy sculpture, and were also granted approval from Cynthia. Alamo (Cube) was previously refurbished in 2005 and 2014. For this latest restoration it was taken to Connecticut where Versteeg Art Fabricators, who repaired the work in 2005, made repairs to its mechanics and exterior. The estate paid $100,000 for the repair work, which involved several coats of black paint both inside and out, along with a new weatherproof spinning mechanism, allowing it to spin for the first time since 2021.
Alamo (Cube) did not return directly from its refurbishment to its rightful corner, but instead took a brief sojourn out to the East End of Long Island. The sculpture was a featured piece of art in this year’s Hamptons Fine Art Fair last week before returning to East Village.
The sculpture is open to the public again, and with its upgraded spinning apparatus should be able to swivel for the next 20 or so years.