A Wave of Public Art for New York City
The New York Times
March 7, 2013
by Carol Vogel
MINIATURES WRIT LARGE
ATOP THE MET ROOF
It might not feel like it, but spring is less than two weeks away. All around New York City plans are quietly proceeding for this season’s new crop of public art.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Artthe annual roof garden exhibition won’t require sneakers. Nor will it be the athletically challenging experience it has sometimes been in the past. In 2010 visitors were invited to walk on cresting pathways fashioned from bamboo, the creation of the artist twinsMike and Doug Starn; last year the Argentine artist Tomás Saraceno presented one of his “Cloud City” installations, a constellation of mirrored modules that people could climb inside.
Instead of looking skyward visitors this year will find themselves staring down at an intricate painting on the ground. The Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi, known for his interpretations of traditional miniature paintings inspired by those made for the Mughal courts of the Indian subcontinent at the end of the 16th century, will be painting a large-scale environment directly onto the roof garden’s floor.
On view May 14 through Nov. 3, the composition will respond to the natural environment of Central Park. Sheena Wagstaff, chairwoman of the Met’s modern and contemporary art department, said she had been beguiled by Mr. Qureshi’s work around the world, from Afghanistan to Australia. “What he does is very organic and sensitive to its surroundings,” she said.
“It is too early to say exactly what the painting will look like,” she said. “Imran’s been here and studied the roof garden and taken photographs.”
What happens to the composition when the exhibition closes in November? “It gets obliterated,” Ms. Wagstaff said. “That’s the wonderful thing about it, it’s truly site specific.”
BACK TO BRYANT PARK
Bryant Park has a reputation for attracting a large lunchtime crowd as soon as the weather warms up, but it has only occasionally been a spot where people go to see public art. From Thursday through April 10, however, it will be the setting for “One-Two-Three,” a 2,700-pound black steel sculpture from 1967 by Tony Smith. He “was one of the first artists to put contemporary art in New York City parks,” said the exhibition’s organizer, Doreen Remen, a founder of the Art Production Fund. In a way it is a homecoming for Smith. In 1967 he had a show of eight plywood sculptures in Bryant Park.
A leading American Minimalist, Smith created more than 50 large-scale sculptures from 1960 to his death, in 1980. This sculpture, made of three modular units, will be installed on the lawn near the fountain terrace, at the park’s western entrance on Sixth Avenue at 41st Street, and passers-by will be able to see it. The sculpture is on loan from Smith’s estate.
The New York Botanical Garden has organized a variety of sculpture exhibitions over the years. In 2006 it presented fantastical blown glass works by Dale Chihuly. Two years later it installed 18 bronze sculptures by Henry Moore, and currently a towering work by the Spanish artist Manolo Valdés is on view.
Things are about to get a bit wackier. Starting on May 18 four 15-foot-tall fiberglass sculptures inspired by the 16th-century works of Giuseppe Arcimboldo — known for painting portrait heads made of vegetables, flowers fish and branches — will be installed in the symmetrical courtyard of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Titled the “Four Seasons,” they are the work of Philip Haas, who is perhaps better known for directing films like “Angels and Insects,” “Up at the Villa” and “The Situation.”
“Autumn” is a knotty tree trunk, his ears a pair of cherries, his beard made up of strands of moss and his cloak consisting of plaited straw, all actually in painted fiberglass. A humanoid form with gnarled tree limbs and locks of tumbling ivy represents “Winter,” and “Spring” is a man with eggplants hanging from his hair, corn sticking out of his collar and an artichoke for a buttonhole.
“I love the idea of taking Renaissance imagery into the natural world,” Mr. Haas said. “I’m fascinated with transformation.”
These sculptures have been making the rounds in the United States and in Europe. Last summer they were installed at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, and they now adornthe Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, where they remain through April 28.
DAHESH AT CHRISTIE’S
The Dahesh Museum of Art has been without a home since it vacated its premises at Madison Avenue and 57th Street in 2007. Since then it has been teaming with institutions like Syracuse University to keep its name and collection in the public eye.
Its latest partnership is sure to raise a few eyebrows, however. This week the institution said it had organized a show at Christie’s, “Encountering the Orient: Masterworks from the Dahesh Museum of Art,” which is to open on March 27. Is the Dahesh planning on selling some of its art?
“That will never happen,” said Amira Zahid, a member of the museum’s board. “We’re breaking new ground. This is an opportunity to show that art and commerce are not that far apart. We both believe in education and have something to offer the public together.”
The exhibition, which includes 30 Orientalist paintings, sculptures and illustrated books, will not be in Christie’s main sales gallery, nor will it be in the auction room, Ms. Zahid pointed out.
Diana Bramham, a specialist in 19th-century European paintings at Christie’s, said the cross-cultural theme of Orientalism was a “timely topic that our clients and the public at large will be interested in seeing.” The show will continue through April 15.
If auctioning any of the museum’s holdings is out of the question, adding to them is not, Ms. Bramham said. She emphasized that from time to time the museum has bought art, which makes the exhibition good business for Christie’s.