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Tampa council votes to relocate Agam sculpture

By Kevin Wiatrowski
Published: July 17, 2014
“Visual Welcome,” now by the entrance to an underground parking garage near Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, was commissioned in 1994 by then-mayor Sandy Freeman and is a favorite artwork of current Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

TAMPA — After years of sitting at the entrance to an underground parking garage, one of Tampa’s most notable art pieces will be restored and relocated.

Tampa City Council this morning approved a $38,515 contract with a West Palm Beach company to restore Israeli artist Yaacov Agam’s “Visual Welcome,” a sculpture commissioned by former Mayor Sandy Freedman in 1994. The contract includes the cost of moving the painted steel-and-concrete sculpture to a new home in the median of Bayshore Boulevard near the Academy of the Holy Names.

Art Creations & Restoration LLC created the sculpture under Agam’s guidance. Agan donated the sculpture to the city in 1995.

Its mix of brightly colored geometric shapes arranged on nine vertical panels creates a shifting series of optical illusions as the viewer moves past it. Today, the best vantage point for viewing the sculture as intended is by walking up the stairs leading from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to Kiley Gardens.

The restoration work on Agam’s statue will begin next month, when the panels are disassembled. It will end in November or December with the reinstallation on Bayshore.

“Visual Welcome” is part of Tampa’s diverse collection of public art, which ranges from expansive murals to ancient pottery.

The sculpture used to stand at the west end of Zack Street near the Hillsborough River. It was moved to its current home between Curtis Hixon park and the city parking garage to the south when construction began on the park and the Tampa Musuem of Art. The museum sits on the Agam statue’s former site.

The location at the eastern end of Twiggs Street makes the statue all but invisible. It frequently shares space with trash cans, city vehicles and the occasional garbage truck.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said the statue is his favorite piece of Tampa’s public art.

As a young man, he helped Freedman, who collects Agam’s works, curry favor with Agam by taking him windsurfing on Hillsborough Bay.

Asked about the statue last summer, Buckhorn said he would consider moving it if the city had the money and could find a suitable location.

Councilwoman Mary Mulhern, a trained art historian, said the new location will raise the statue’s public profile. Bayshore is already home to several other pieces of Tampa’s public art collection.

“That’ll be a much better place for it to be seen,” Mulhern said. “It’s made to be seen as you move past it.”

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