NYC Landmark Becomes Living Room In the Sky

ABC News' Darcy Bonfils and Katie Kindelan report:

As cars zip around and unsuspecting crowds stroll by, seven stories high above them one of New York City's boldest new art projects is underway.

The art project is on a 70-foot high statue of Christopher Columbus built in 1892 that today stands as one of the city's most famous landmarks.

The project is the work of Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi who is building a contemporary living room surrounding the statue in Manhattan's Columbus Circle. When it opens Sept. 20, the free exhibit, called " Discovering Columbus," will allow visitors to climb stairs to the living room for a close-up look at the statue and a rare view of the city and neighboring Central Park.

PHOTOS: First Look at 'Discovering Columbus'

"This is the first chance any of us will actually have to get face-to-face with this amazing statue," Nicholas Baume, the director and chief curator of the nonprofit Public Art Fund that commissioned the work, told " Good Morning America" in a first look inside the living room.

While "Discovering Columbus" is Nishi's first public art project in the United States, the Germany-based artist is well known around the world for transforming landmark monuments into living spaces. In Singapore he turned the famous Merlion Fountain into a one-of-a-kind hotel suite and, in England, created a temporary functioning hotel around a statue of Queen Victoria to celebrate the 2002 Liverpool Biennial.

The Columbus statue was designed by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage to the Americas. In its new incarnation as a piece of art, the statue's living area, furnished by Bloomingdales, includes all the normal trappings such as lamps, a coffee table, a couch and even a TV. Accenting the furniture is wallpaper designed by Nishi himself featuring images from American pop culture.

"It is so creative," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "It would never occur to me, but it's making a statue so close and so personal."

The exhibit will remain open to the public through Nov. 18. Free passes can be obtained through

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