Just the Scaffolding

Queens towers interrupt the view at MoMA PS1’s James Turrell installation

Art Development East On View
Meeting by James Turrell before the obstruction, as seen at MoMA PS1 (Courtesy MoMA PS1)
Meeting by James Turrell before the obstruction, as seen at MoMA PS1 (Courtesy MoMA PS1)

James Turrell installation in QueensNew York, faces an unclear future after visitors began to notice its skyspace has been interrupted by the neighborhood’s newest high-rise. Meeting is a part of the MoMA PS1 campus and was designed by Turrell between 1980 and 1986 with the goal of creating a meditative place where guests would be able to gaze at the sky away from the ebb and flow of the outside world. The piece is a purely white room with a square hole in the ceiling, drawing guests to look up to the deep blue. A series of LED lights undulating in color changes the ways people perceive both the room they are in and the sky above.

However, for those who enjoy visiting the piece and watching the New York sky without the interruptions of gentrification on the skyline, this experience may have just come to an end. Last week, visitors to Meeting began taking photos of what appears to be a series of bars and pipes at the lower edge of the piece, and PS1 has temporarily closed the room, according to The New York Times.

The shapes, it turns out, are scaffolding belonging to a luxury, high-rise condo building under construction on the Queens–Long Island City border. Though museum officials have said the scaffolding will not be seen once the building is finished, many locals and Turrell fans are afraid their beloved installation and undisrupted view of the sky is gone for good. Among these is Craig Adcock, a professor of art history at the University of Iowa, and author of James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space. He recently told Gothamist any disruptions of the sky “will ruin [the effect]. It won’t work properly if there’s a building with lights up that’s visible.”

Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their fears for the exhibit (and their city) by photoshopping the original picture to now depict a sky interrupted by countless advertisements and drones, as well as by some familiar buildings, such as One Times Square, and the infamous 432 Park Avenue and 56 Leonard.

The same developer in charge of the intruding high-rise, Jerry Wolkoff, was also responsible for building another luxury residential tower on top of the famous and widely-loved 5pointz, a fortress for graffiti artists whose works lined the walls before they were whitewashed and erased forever in 2013. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Wolkoff pay 21 artists at 5pointz $6.7 million for the damages of the lost art.

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