Wednesday, November 9

Upended Elephant in Union Square Raises Confusion

Photo Credit: images © marlborough gallery, new york, courtesy of galerie bruno bischofberger, zurich

There is a huge bronze elephant doing a trunk stand on the east side of Union Square, across from Beth Israel and the Au Bon Pain. It was set up in September of 2011 and will “act as a bridge from uptown to downtown” the Union Square Partnership site insists. The elephant is one of 54 temporary art pieces set up throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. The instillations vary on size and form, some cost very little money to build and other's much more to put into fruition.

Art in the Parks is a government program that decides what art is put up when, and for how long. Temporary art pieces range from about 3 to 6 months. The Program was organized in 1967 in an attempt to "set [art] under the light of day where they intrude upon our daily walks and errands" according to the Art in the Parks website. Many places in the city have temporary instillations. The city gives no funding for the projects so the artists must come up with money to set up and take down the works. Though various grants and awards can be arranged for the artists. Manual labor is not provided by the New York City government.

Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Adrien Benepe or a representative looks over the proposals that are sent in continuously. He decides how sustainable, durable and safe the art will be on the street. Community boards are called in to accept the proposal, “it’s just part of the procedure,” says Jennifer Lantzas, the Public Art Coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Program

Lantzas is trying to build the art out and immerse it into less lucrative boroughs. "Everyone wants Central Park" she says, "but we try to work with the artists to find a different location. Too much art in Central Park would not have been Olmstead’s vision," she adds. Lantzas hopes that locations will change with the help of the Clare Weiss Emerging Artists Award, introduced this year in honor of the late Clare Weiss who was the Public Art Coordinator until her death in 2010.

The elephant, entitled, 'Gran Elefandret' was constructed in 2008. It stands at 26 feet and weighs about 1/2 ton. This will be the second world class public art instillation in Union Square, a huge change from the regular exhibits in both Central Park and along the Park Avenue Mall.

The Spanish artist, Miquel Barcelo, was born in 1957 and separates his time between Barcelona, Paris and... The sculpture has travelled from Avignon, France and will be teetering in its position until late May. However, there are many complaints already, on the art site, 'Designer Boom,' several people have commented that the sculpture is a copy of another sculpture by the artist Daniel Firman whose piece Wursa at 18,00km from Earth resembles Barcelo's piece. “This is a Daniel Firman piece” one of the comments below says, “how can they allow it??” Another comment simply says “horrendous.”

Lantzas encourages controversy, “that’s the fantastic thing about the project.” She says. “There are people who like them and there are people who don’t.”

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