Last week, as I was driving down FDR Drive in New York City, on my way downtown for my client presentation, I managed to see two of the four waterfalls which were part of the public art installation “New York City Waterfalls” by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. His previous claim to fame was creating a fake sun which illuminated the ceiling of Tate Museum in London day and night. There was a big to-do last week in New York City with the main sponsor of this art installation, the city’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, making many media appearances extolling the virtues of the art and artist alike, and leading an opening ceremony on South Street Seaport on Thursday morning. The four waterfalls, each between 90 to 120 feet tall, were erected on four points along the East River, most notably under the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge. In my humble opinion, no one needed to be messing around with the Brooklyn Bridge- it is one of the most dazzling, most beautiful architectural landmarks in the country, so having water being pumped from scaffolding under it is like having a Number 2 pencil lying on Brad Pitt’s abs, absolutely, maddeningly pointless. Which, by the way, is how I felt about this so-called art installation. The waterfalls were nothing but scaffolding and falling water, and for this particular viewer, they didn’t conjure up any profound insights about “exploring the dynamic nature of the waterfront” or “painting a narrative about the complexity of the city”, variations of phrases that Eliasson has used to describe exactly what the hell this installation is about, phrases which call to mind laughable, ridiculous stereotypes of what modern art is. So if scaffolding is art, what will come next? oil rigs? building construction sites? car assembly lines? What is particularly grating is that this smoke and mirrors of an exhibit cost $15.5 million to create (raised from a variety of private donors, including allegedly millionaire mayor Bloomberg himself) – shockingly tasteless, self-indulgent, and close to unconscionable during these times when the economy is tanking, people are unemployed, gas prices and food costs are through the roof. Leave it to New York City to shamelessly disregard the state of the rest of the union, and continue to float in its glossy wonderland of self-absorption. Check out the New York Times’ coverage of the Waterfalls, including a clueless, bordering on the delusional, review.
Tags: Public art