One of the most famous sights in mid-town Manhattan is the four-story tall statue of Atlas holding aloft the Heavens. Inspired by the primordial Titan whose Name gives us the “Atlantic Ocean” as well as our common name for a group of maps, the Art Deco work was installed in 1937, as part of the incorporated public-arts program of Rockefeller Center, a complex of buildings spanning 48th Street to 51st Street off of Fifth Avenue, and renovated in the 1930s by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in the largest private building project undertaken in modern times. A symbol of strength and patient endurance, “Atlas” nonetheless directs our attention to the Celestial (and the impressive building behind Him), the North/ South axis of the armillary sphere indicating the North Star as seen from New York City.
Called one of the most famous and popular pieces of sculpture in the United States (after the Lincoln Memorial, Mt. Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty), the gilded Prometheus decorates the sunken plaza (known for its skating rink) in front of “30 Rock,” the home of NBC Studios. Depicting the Titan-Intermediary who stole the Sacred Fire of the Gods as a gift to humans, “Prometheus” guards the complex as the Creator of Artistic Inspiration, memorialized by a quote from Aeschylus: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.” Rockefeller Center is always a lively area (no doubt stimulated by the Influence of these notable Deities); a tour of the studio-spaces is always worthwhile, and the view from the seventy-story high Observation Deck is spectacular.