India’s first public sculpture park opened last year in the sprawling Madhavendra Palace, a milestone for the country’s contemporary art scene. The palace's formal corridors and rooms have been curated as a uniquely rich pathway for visitors to The Sculpture Park to see new works of contemporary sculpture in each edition of the park’s programming. This year, 23 artists have brought new, often site-specific works to the palace, and over half of them live and work in India themselves. “For most of my career as a gallerist and curator, I have been trying to break away from the white-box exhibition space,” 2019 edition curator Peter Nagy told Hyperallergic. “With this project, I am able to indulge my passions for art, architecture, and decor into a marvelous synthesis of the past and the present.” Completed in 1892, the Palace is the best-preserved section of the Nahargarh Fort complex, which was designed to sit organically amongst the hills as a pleasure retreat for Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh, founder of the city of Jaipur. Twenty-three artists will explore ideas of landscape, politics, and colonialism in their works this year, amidst the backdrop of an Indian heritage landmark to create a striking context. From architectural explorations of the intersections of modern colonial and traditional styles to World War II radio relics, the pieces are varied in narrative as well as scale, but united by their common backdrop. The palace as sculpture park continues to exist as an example of public and private sectors working side-by-side for the proliferation of the arts. A collaboration between the Government of Rajasthan and Saat Saath Arts non-profit, The Sculpture Park states in its mission statement that the park is an example of an “India of the 21st century,” a "synthesis of the contemporary with the traditional, bringing art into the public realm and reclaiming public spaces.” But with works decrying hot-button issues such as the Kashmir border crises and the lingering effects of war and empire, it is difficult to see how the park's artists plan to work with governmental bodies to reform the topics this exhibition is expressing. Yet, the public is responding. Just since the park’s opening, visitation to the palace has increased by 37 percent.
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Jeff Koons’s controversial sculpture Bouquet of Tulips was first proposed as a "donation" by the artist in 2016 and has only now found a home near the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Described as a “gift of remembrance” by the artist in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the city in the years of 2015 and 2016, the gargantuan proportions, cost, and proposed core location amongst top Parisian contemporary art institutions mired the project in controversy since its original announcement. Originally, the bouquet was proposed to be installed outside the Palais de Tokyo, a museum location very popular with tourists, with views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. However, the backlash from the public, including a published letter by the French daily newspaper Libération, swayed officials to rethink the plan. The letter listed grievances against the installation, among them arguments that the work was conceptualized as a “symbol of memory, optimism, and recovery,” but without any relation to the tragic events or their location. The 24 signatories, all professionals within the French art and architecture scenes, including a former culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, also cited that while he was a “brilliant and inventive creator in the 1980s, Jeff Koons has since become the emblem of an industrial art,” and that a work placed in an area of such high touristic visibility would amount to “advertising or product placement.” However, other factors like the 33-ton weight of the sculpture, came in to play as well, as the basement below the site may not have been able to withstand the pressure. Koons only donated the concept of the 40-foot-tall sculpture—a hyper-realistic hand holding 11 "balloons" resembling tulip bulbs made from stone, polished stainless steel, bronze, and aluminum—while private donations and foundations financed the actual fabrication and eventual plans for installation. The project cost an estimated $3.5 million, but French taxpayers will be tapped for the sculpture’s protection and maintenance. During the debates over the fate of the gift, the sculpture had been sitting finished in a German warehouse. Installation was only greenlit after a trip by Koons himself to Paris on August 23rd, where in three hours, the artist, his gallerist, Jérôme and Emmanuelle de Noirmont of Noirmontartproduction, and city officials came to the locational compromise. The bouquet is set to be installed by October 5, where it will debut during Paris’ nuit blanche, the citywide annual all-night art event. While photography is strictly prohibited throughout the installation process, two of the bulbs have already been delivered by Arnold, a celebrated German metal fabricator known for its polished metal works—and while that shine is a trademark of the American artist, the new tulips will have a matte finish, “out of respect for the French people.”
The art on the facade of the Brooklyn Heights Library has found a new home. Back in 2017, the old library building, a squat structure from the early 1960s that exuded WPA vibes, was demolished to make way for a luxury condo tower designed by New York's Marvel Architects. While the building itself wasn't much to look at, the art on its facade was most certainly was: six bas-reliefs by Italian sculptor Clemente Spampinato that playfully depicted industry and businesses; crafts; sciences; knowledge; literature; and arts. A BPL spokesperson confirmed over email that, per the original announcement, two of the six 10-by-11-foot panels will adorn a meeting room in the new library, which is slated to open in fall 2020. The other four panels will be the spolia in a to-be-planted garden outside the Walt Whitman Library, which is about a mile's walk from the branch in Brooklyn Heights at 280 Cadman Plaza West (or One Clinton, per the condo's branding). The new 26,600-square-foot Brooklyn Heights library space will sit within the Marvel Architects-designed building. The old library's demolition is part of a $300 million capital repair campaign that the Brooklyn Public Library estimates will generate $40 million in revenue for major repairs at other branches. There's certainly plenty of value locked into the building: At press time, a 900-square-foot one-bedroom was listed at $1.2 million, while the cheapest three-bedroom, a 2,000-square-foot 2.5 bath unit, is going for $3.1 million.
Manhattan’s Madison Square Park has opened its 38th outdoor installation to the public today, dropping an evocative, interactive “cityscape” from sculptor Leonardo Drew into the park that will stay up until December 15. The 100-plus-foot-long City in the Grass stands as a solitary statement on its own but also makes ample reference to the city surrounding it, including the Empire State Building, which looms over the park. The piece is a tapestry of colors, textures, and materials that simultaneously evokes growth, comfort, ruins, and intimacy on the park’s Oval Lawn. Three stepped spires, the tallest of which tops out at 16 feet, anchor City in the Grass and are an obvious allusion to the Empire State Building to the north. Each spire is made from a mixture of plaster and latex paint, and Drew says that their eclectic appearance is a reference to Cuba’s dilapidated hotels, where peeling paint reveals the underlying structure. Surrounding each spire is an abstracted landscape of black and white wood offcuts of varying heights, reminiscent of buildings, but without a specific reference. These urban islands “float” in between waves of steel panels adorned in colored sand and patterned after Persian carpet designs, literalizing the “ebb and flow” of urban life through peaks and valleys. The peeling, layered look of the carpet, complete with holes and seams that let the grass below poke through, is meant to evoke the feeling of a familiar, well-worn home item. While the piece may look like it was assembled from found materials, Drew was quick to point out that he doesn’t use found objects; every piece and tear is deliberate. Drew is typically known for his wall pieces and City in the Grass is his first outdoor public installation. Appropriately enough, the piece is meant to encourage public interaction. While City in the Grass might look fragile, visitors are encouraged to sit, stand on, and explore it from every angle (just don’t climb on the spires). City in the Grass was commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. As the exhibition will remain up throughout the fall and winter, visitors can experience the materials weathering in real time in response to the natural landscape around it.
The Swiss artist Urs Fischer has returned to The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, which first presented a solo show of his work in 2010, with ERROR, a surreal landscape of sculptures, paintings, and a full-scale cabin—partially made of slowly molding bread. Bread House had originally been staged in 2004 and has been reconstructed this time with (thankfully) new bread, which will again decay and rot and stink. The life-size alpine cabin is lined with rugs and is held together with the help of expanding foam and wood. (In some past iterations the house has been populated by young parakeets, which feed off the bread.) Other fairy-tale-esque domestic fixtures are also on display, though not within the walls of the yeasty home, including bed sculptures, like Kratz (2011), a bed collapsing under the weight of a pile of concrete, and Untitled (2011), a bed seemingly collapsing under the ghostly weight of nothing. Stranger still perhaps, there is Horse/Bed (2013), a deconstructed hospital bed merged with an aluminum horse, like some sort of sick harness. To create this eerie form, Fischer blended 3-D scans of a taxidermied workhorse and a hospital bed. There is, of course, seating too, like You Can Not Win (2003), a falling over plain plaster chair that’s been impaled by an over-four-foot-tall white BIC lighter. That might be comical, but more jarring is a fountain-cum-chair draped with a skeleton, pietà-style, called Invisible Mother (2015). All of these works—along with other sculptures, paintings, and mixed media objects—create a dreamlike (or nightmare-like, depending on your disposition) environment that overwhelms and confuses to giddying effect. URS FISCHER: ERROR The Brant Art Foundation Study Center Greenwich, CT Through October 14
What if instead of photographing your home to remember its significance in your life, you recreated its walls, windows, and doors by casting them in liquid latex? That’s quite the committed way of capturing the space of life, but one that could also produce a more tangible record of space. The seminal Swiss sculptor and performance artist Heidi Bucher did just that in the mid-1970s and '80s. Late in her career, she discovered a new, experimental artform of “skinning” spaces by pressing gauze against the surface of a building or object, spreading latex on top of it, and then peeling off the cast with all her might. A survey of these monumental pieces, which have been pristinely kept by her family, will be on view in the new exhibition, Heidi Bucher: The Site of Memory, at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York from April 29 to June 15. Viewers will be able to see up-close and personal the details and textures that Bucher was able to capture. Featuring Bucher’s most iconic sculptures, like Borg from 1976, a piece molded on the entire cellar of her studio, the exhibition will provide insights into the artist’s intensive latex casting method and the lengths that she would go to record spaces. Also included will be works shown for the first time in the United States like Untitled (Door to the Herrenzimmer) from 1978, a sculpture that, like much of Bucher’s work, takes on an ethereal quality thanks to the mother-of-pearl she pasted over her pieces to create an iridescent sheen. Though her projects have naturally browned over time, such touches gave helped them maintain an aura of elusive depth. “I don’t think she was trying to be super precious with these materials,” said Anna Stothart, curatorial director of Lehmann Maupin. “For her, these skins had certain layers of beauty but were also meant to express the specific personal, social, and historic memories held in these architectural spaces. You can even see the residue of the paint pulled from the surface of whatever she was casting.” Bucher’s work was clearly indicative of a literal place and time in her own life, but it also had a larger, cultural meaning. According to Stothart, she was investigating the physical boundaries between the human body and the domestic environments in which women, in particular, were often confined to. The pieces shown in the exhibition center around the period when Bucher returned to a politically-charged Zurich after living in more progressive cities within the U.S. and Canada with her husband, who was a more traditional sculptor. After divorcing him, she began exploring more abstract forms of sculpture as well as feminist ideas like what it means to “take up space,” both in public and in private, as a Swiss woman. She primarily molded women’s clothing at first, which according to the exhibition description “both signified her interest in metamorphosis and served as a critical response to the rigid gender restrictions she experienced growing up.” By the time she started casting large-scale architectural structures, such as entire rooms, the concept turned into a personal and cultural commentary on removing oneself from the patriarchal past. “She would literally pull the molds off the wall using her whole body,” said Stothart. “The material is strong and she wasn’t worried about the end result being perfect, or even conserving it. I’d say she didn’t want a piece to be an exact replica of space, but the memory of it, a ghost of it.” Heidi Bucher: The Site of Memory opens at Lehmann Maupin at 501 West 24th Street, New York on April 29. A series of videos filmed by Bucher and her sons, Mayo and Indigo Bucher, will accompany the work, unveiling the poetic ways in which the artist spoke about her process and works.
A new 25-foot-tall statue of an Afro pick now stands outside The Africa Center in East Harlem, New York. All Power to All People, created by conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas, was erected last Friday in its temporary location on 5th Avenue. Designed in collaboration with the Kindred Arts cultural equity initiative, the steel sculpture is intended to honor and celebrate cultural identities of the African diaspora. Thomas worked with fabricator Jeff Schomberg to imagine the larger-than-life Afro pick, which sits at an angle on a black podium and features a handle in the outline of a clenched fist. The design is an iteration of Thomas's 2017 sculpture made with Monument Lab in Philadelphia for Thomas Paine Plaza. In connection with the Afro pick’s distinct cultural and political identity, the piece symbolizes the strength, comradery, and perseverance of the African-American community, as well as the ongoing pursuit for equal rights, justice, and belonging. Marsha Reid, executive director of Kindred Arts and producer of the project, noted the important location of the installation. “Representation matters,” she said, “and this monumental art is placed here at The Africa Center in the heart of the community, with the purpose of inspiring conversation and facilitating a space where communities might affirm cultural citizenship and freely express identity.” All Power to All People will be on display through July 7, 2019, in the public plaza outside The Africa Center at 1280 Fifth Avenue in New York City. A slew of public programs will coincide with the monumental installation. For more information, visit The Africa Center’s website.
Filipino artist and designer Leeroy New has created a fluorescent installation in Pintô International's new gallery space in New York City's East Village. After a two-week residency in February 2019, New created the sculptures along with multi-colored costumes that performers have donned while traipsing around Lower Manhattan. Aliens of Manila: New York Colony has a sort of psychedelic, fungal look, as though prosaic objects had somehow mutated into funky new lifeforms. Both the sculptures and the costumes are made of cheap plastic home goods and fabrication supplies like zip ties and fiberglass strips. The photos of performers on the street are part of the artist's broader Aliens of Manila project that "speaks to the wider experience of cultural displacement but is profoundly informed by the artist’s own familial experience with the phenomenon of what he refers to as 'OFW'—Overseas Filipino Workers." The photos show people in the costumes popping against the backdrop of day-to-day activity in New York City. Pintô International is the new space from the Phillippines-based Pintô Art Museum, a museum that collects and exhibits the work of many prominent local artists. Aliens of Manila: New York Colony marks the launch of a quarterly exhibition schedule, an artist residency, and a monthly Pintô Sessions event series. Aliens of Manila: New York Colony Pintô International 431 East 12th Street, New York, New York Through May 27, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s flagship Beaux-Arts facade on Fifth Avenue will soon host art for the first time in the building’s 115-year history. Installing work along the museum’s historic frontage is part of a larger slew of contemporary art exhibitions announced by the institution last Thursday. The move to display new pieces, some of them site-specific, is a clear effort by the museum to fill the void created by winding down its presence at the Met Breuer. It was announced last September that the Met would be vacating the brutalist Breuer building in 2020, only four years after its renovation and rebranding, so that the Frick Collection can temporarily continue to operate there while its flagship house-museum undergoes an upgrade. From September 9 through January 12, 2020, sculptures from Nairobi-born artist Wangechi Mutu will adorn the facade's niches. Mutu’s designs will be the first in a newly-announced annual series of installations along the building’s stone facade, which was completed in 1902 by architect Richard Howland Hunt. Although Mutu's exact sculptures have not been revealed yet, her work has previously used collage to touch on elements of diaspora, African culture, and inequality. Additionally, Canadian Cree artist Kent Monkman has been tapped to create enormous, site-specific new paintings for the museum’s Great Hall, which will be on view from December 19 through April 12, 2020. Multidisciplinary Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson will also premiere Death is Elsewhere, an immersive multi-channel video installation in the Robert Lehman Wing atrium, from May 30 through September 2. Other than marking a shift towards highlighting contemporary and new pieces, the three exhibitions also make greater use of the Met’s building itself to display them. "Artists have long engaged with The Met's collection, drawing connections between contemporary practices and 5,000 years of world culture," said Max Hollein, Director of the Met, in a press release. "These projects are a manifestation of The Met's desire and ability to collaborate with artists and current artistic production in an unusual way. The Met itself, the building, and its public spaces will become temporary platforms for presenting new work, offering powerful opportunities to display contemporary art for our broad audience to experience."
Belgian artist Pieter Vermeersch and architecture studio OFFICE Kersten Geers David Severen have partnered on numerous projects. Most notably, the celebrated installation artist carried out a series of gradient wall paintings on the roof of the experimental firm’s 2017 project, Solo House II. Culminating this particular collaboration is a new capsule furniture assemblage debuting at Brussels’s Maniera Gallery, now on view through May 4. Comprised of a kinetic room divider, a graphical table, a cylindrical floor lamp, and a metal-mesh sofa, the new collectible design collection draws direct inspiration from the architecture of the iconic project. Perched on an isolated plateau in Spain’s Matarraña forest, the 360-degree, circular Solo House II follows modernists principles, such as the blending of indoor and outdoor space. Between two monolithic slab profiles that function as a base and roof, thin columns and glass walls delineate porous interiors. Geometric volumes are strategically placed on both levels to hide utilities. The new furniture collection echoes the building’s spheroid aesthetic. The semi-circular and semi-transparent Perimeter Room Divider is made up of polystyrol mirror slates, clad in a beige-pink gradient. Loosely anchored on an aluminum rail, the screen can transform from a gradient spectrum into a reflective surface. This same iridescent quality is evident in the totemic Light Post floor lamp. While circles and squares form the structure of the Solo and Round tables, Vermeersch’s painterly interventions are evident in the patina of the pieces’ Bianco Neve marble tops. The organically-shaped Divan 2p sofa and Fauteuil 1.5P lounge chair evoke the rugged nature of Solo House II's arid surroundings. Within the gallery space, the combined set-design of these similar yet distinct pieces strike an impressive pose. Like the house it references, the collection's bright color tones soften its minimalistic presence. At its core, the assemblage and exhibition reveal how art, architecture, and design can transcend and hold equal footing. Beyond traditional definitions, the exploration of archetypical shape is what matter most for both Vermeersch and OFFICE. This interdisciplinary methodology is apparent in their respective practices. Whereas the former addresses space in his art, the later often approaches architecture with an object-centric point of view. For OFFICE, furniture operates on an intermediate scale, between architecture and the human being; the body and city. The showcase also features work by major Dutch architectural photography Bas Princen, OFFICE’s longtime collaborator. The 2012 Mosques in the Nile Valley series captures the interplay of fluorescent lights on monolithic buildings at night. The photos resemble Suprematist compositions—an aesthetic also evoked in the furniture collection.
Last year, New York City’s Parks Department announced plans to build a statue honoring women’s suffrage movement leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The monument, designed by sculptor and human rights activist Meredith Bergmann, will be the first non-fictional female statue in Central Park. In a city where roughly 90 percent of its public monuments depict men, Bergmann intended for the sculpture to celebrate women and pay homage to those who actively fought for women’s rights, yet since it's unveiling, the piece has been met with a wave of online controversy over its subject. In January, the New York Times noted that women’s rights activists and historical scholars were among the first in recent years to call out Anthony and Stanton’s problematic history with race and more specifically, their focus on white women’s suffrage over voting rights for all women. Both figures were prominent abolitionists, but the passing of the 15th Amendment created a huge rift between those who fought for black men’s rights and those who strived for women’s rights. The frustrations voiced by white women like Anthony and Stanton, who were told to “wait their turn” as black men won the right to vote following the Civil War, often conveyed distasteful, racist undertones, according to History.com. In 1866, the two women formed the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) with Frederick Douglass, an organization whose goal was to grant equality and voting rights for both women and African Americans. But after just three years, the AERA disintegrated over debates about whether to support the 15th Amendment. The Villager wrote that at a 1869 convention, Stanton delivered a hateful speech filled with "classist, racist, and xenophobic" remarks against former slaves and immigrants, saying that uneducated and illiterate men should not be making laws for affluent women’s suffrage leaders. Bergmann, while aware of Stanton and Anthony’s shortcomings, created the sculpture to recognize their tireless efforts to mobilize an entire country toward acknowledging women as a powerful and resilient demographic. “It’s unfortunate that these two women did not transcend those prejudices,” Bergmann said in an interview with The Villager. “These things should be brought to light for sure.” The statue will feature a lengthy, 22-foot-long scroll, which will recognize the contributions of African American women, such as Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells, who helped promote the advancement of all women’s rights. Bergmann told The Villager she hopes the presence of these black, Latina, and white women's names will "mitigate the [widespread and common] prejudices of Stanton and Anthony." The monument will be installed on Central Park's Literary Walk next year on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment's passing.
There have been a number of projects to digitize culture as of late. More and more museums are putting their collections online, and there are, of course, the many projects of Google Arts & Culture, including the company's recent experiments 3-D printing historic sites. Now, all of the United Kingdom's publicly-owned sculptures that have been made in the past millennium—some 150,000 of them—are going online. Art UK, which has previously worked to get oil paintings documented and accessible online, estimates that most of the country’s sculptures have not been previously photographed, at least in any systematic way, and that only around one percent of the country's public collections can currently be found online. With nearly £4 million in funding secured, the nonprofit's new project brings to light the many sculptures that stay tucked away in storage, as so many works are, exposing them to people across the world through a web platform. The nonprofit's staff, joined by photographers and volunteers, will be traveling across the U.K. to document sculptures from around the world, though they will only focus on those that were made over the past thousand years and are in the U.K.'s public collections or in significant private partner collections, such as those at Oxford and Cambridge. The documentation acts as a critical intervention in preserving and protecting cultural heritage, especially considering that the majority of these works are located outside and are subject to the elements and vandalism. To help organize all these works and all this information, Art UK invites users to join its Tagger platform, which was created along with Citizens Science Alliance, a group based in the astrophysics department at the University of Oxford, and with staff from the art history department at the University of Glasgow, to allow volunteers to help organize, describe, and make searchable hundreds of thousands of artworks. Part of Art UK’s mission is to show as much of the national art collection as possible, an objective that doesn’t end with the online index. Alongside the digitizing project, Art UK is embarking on various engagement projects, including “60 sculpture-related films” being created “with and by young people.” The nonprofit will also be taking 125 sculptures into schools. You can now view the first 1,000 cataloged sculptures, including everything from outdoor modernist works by Henry Moore, a dollhouse by Yinka Shonibare, 19th-century buddhas, 15th-century bishops, and a wide array of public architectural fixtures.