It’s been a long time coming but the “Rocket Thrower” statue, left over from the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, will be refurbished soon.
The Parks Department determined several years ago that the statue is in need of gilding, restoration of the bronze and stabilization of the base, but the estimated cost was more than the city would provide. However, the Municipal Arts Society has included the sculpture in its Adopt-a-Monument program and announced recently that $115,000 would be provided for the work.
The city hopes work will begin in the fall and be completed by December. The MAS will maintain it through its endowment fund.
An emergency repair was made to one of the statue’s arms in 1989, but further tests have shown a number of small cracks in the bronze that need to be shored up.
According to a Parks Department spokesman, restoration work will entail making all the necessary repairs, repatination, selective gilding and application of a protective surface coating. The base will be cleaned and repointed.
Located between the Unisphere and the Fountain of the Planets, the 43-foot-tall bronze was designed by Donald DeLue, one of five modernist artists selected to create pieces to outlast the fair. It depicts a heroic figure throwing a rocket up to the heavens with his right hand and reaching for a constellation of gilded stars with his left hand.
Because his was a late entry, DeLue had less than six months to work on the project at a cost of $105,000. It was installed just before the fair opened in April 1964 near one of the reflecting pools leading up to the Unisphere.
Many of the fair’s sculptures dealt with the space theme, and the “Rocket Thrower” was located in the Court of the Astronauts. It received mixed reviews. The New York Times art critic John Canaday called it “the most lamentable monster, making Walt Disney look like Leonardo Da Vinci.”
But Phylllis Cohen, director of the Adopt-a-Monument program, called the work a “tour de force” celebrating the space age, and one that is well worth restoring.