NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York City landmark has been transformed into modern art.

Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi has constructed an 810-square-foot living room offering spectacular views of mid-Manhattan at one of its busiest intersections.

The 27-foot by 30-foot living room — complete with couch, lamps, flat-screen television and coffee table — wraps around a 13-foot statue of Christopher Columbus. The statue has been there since 1892 perched on top of a 70-foot column at Columbus Circle.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

The location isn’t for the faint-hearted: You get there by climbing a 6-story, scaffold-covered staircase. An elevator is available for those who can’t climb the stairs.

The fake penthouse, called “Discovering Columbus,” opens to the public on Thursday and will run through Nov. 18. Up to 25 people at a time can enter the room.

columbus circle statue Columbus Circle Living Room Ready To Open To The Public

“Discovering Columbus” in Columbus Circle (credit: Stan Brooks/1010 WINS)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it’s a rare opportunity to see the great explorer up close.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb On The Story

“It is so creative,” Bloomberg said. “It would never have occurred to me to take the statue and to present it in different ways to let people get up close and personal.”

But not everyone is enthused about the artwork.

“It looks like a trailer park. The only thing missing are the pink flamingos,” said John Mancini, executive director of the Italic Institute of America, which represents about 1,000 Italians nationwide. “It’s an atrocious piece of art from the outside.” He said he also has safety concerns with the installation.

The column was created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas.

“How can another artist come and reinterpret the original artist’s work?” asked Mancini, noting that the statue won’t be visible from the street as it normally would during the annual Oct. 8 Columbus Day Parade.

Nishi, who is internationally known for transforming historical monuments by surrounding them with domestic spaces, said the aim of his piece is to put the viewer at eye level with the statue. “Discovering Columbus” is his first public art project in the United States.

Columbus Circle Living Room - Sep 19, 2012 (credit: Rich Lamb / WCBS 880)

Columbus Circle Living Room – Sep 19, 2012 (credit: Rich Lamb / WCBS 880)

The nonprofit Public Art Fund, which commissioned Nishi’s New York installation, said the organization hasn’t heard any objections from other Italian-American groups.

The Columbus Citizens Foundation, a 600-member organization that sponsors the annual Columbus Day Parade, has said the artwork will mark the only time people will be able come right up to the majestic statue. The 50,000-member National Italian American Foundation in Washington, D.C., said the installation also will provoke discussion about Christopher Columbus’ role in history.

The city provided $1 million for the conservation of the monument — a restoration project that will make use of the scaffolding around the privately-funded installation.

The art installation is free of charge but visitors will be required to reserve passes in advance to climb up to the living room.

The reserve passes click here.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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