A modernist equine sculpture in New York City has undergone a major restoration. The Nivola Horses, named after their creator, Italian artist Costantino Nivola, is an art installation of 18 concrete modernist horses. The horses were installed in 1964 in the plaza of a public housing project known as the Stephen Wise Towers. Since then, the little herd has been through tough times. For starters, according to an article in The West Side Rag, vandals hacked off their muzzles after only a decade.
Time passed but nothing was done to repair their faces and the plaza fell into disrepair. But things went from bad to worse when a water main broke in 2021 and a construction crew removed the horses, cutting them off at the knees, leaving stumps in the ground. The Westside Rag reports there was a local outcry, including protests from art historians and an Italian museum – according to The New York Times, specifically the Nivola Museum in Italy, which posted on its Facebook page in March, 2021 calling the removal “institutional vandalism.” Michele Pais, president of the regional council in Sardinia from where Nivola hails, called the removal of the horses, “A massacre that hits the heart of our culture.”
The uproar forced the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to agree to restore the horses. But how?
Rescue came from PACT-Renaissance Collaborative, which were given ownership of the towers and the surrounding grounds by the NYCHA. Fortunately, Amy Stokes, who is part of PACT, also has a background in art history and she set about getting the job done. It proved to be a collaborative effort, with Stokes hunting down stone restoration experts, traveling to Italy to meet with the Nivola Museum and other experts. At long last, the horses were reinstalled complete with hooves and new muzzles.