Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for August 25th, 2008

Bad Art: Eliasson’s NYC Waterfalls

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Generally, I blog art that I like and find inspiring, but every now and then when I find art really annoying and over the top, I can’t help but including it in this site and Olafur Eliasson’s NYC Waterfalls fall into the annoying and ridiculous of contemporary art.

NYC Waterfalls

Jerry Slatz gets it right when he states that “the waterfalls seem dinkier than you’d think…  In addition, it’s obvious that these aren’t waterfalls at all; they’re just plumbing, tall metal scaffoldings with pipes pumping cascades of water off the top.”  Then in the following paragraph of his NY Magazine review he waxes poetic, not so much about the Waterfalls, but how they enhance the NYC skyline.  But the NYC skyline doesn’t need clunky$15.5 million waterfalls to enhance it!

The NYC Waterfalls strike me as a failed attempt at monumentalism and an example of the worst type of public art – public art that can not be enjoyed and experienced by people, it can only be stared at from a distance.  Whenever I visit Chicago, I make a point of going to Millennium Park, the grand public arts work in downtown Chicago.  Millennium Park has its own conflicts, but as I watch people interact with monumental contemporary works of art at the park, I see success because people are able to enjoy the work first hand.  Children play in Plensa’s “Crown Fountain”, people stand within Kapoor’s giant bean and are mesmerized by the reflection and visual play.  Of course Millennium Park is permanent, but the park presents exciting possibilities for public art at a monumental scale, whereas the Waterfalls presents a modernist throwback to public art.

People have compared the Waterfalls to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates, but The Gates managed to transform Central Park at both the sweeping grand scale of the park as a whole as well as at the level of the individual pedestrian.  Whereas the Waterfalls are not attractive, they merely appear as a lot of scaffolding with running water that shrinks below the scale of the city.  It’s a shame that the Public Art Fund doesn’t take a more visionary approach to the possibilities of what public art might be.

Written by ricardo

August 25th, 2008 at 8:57 am