What happens to sculpture in the real world of time and history? The Serra exhibit reminders me of all the discussions that I had with Tom Finkelpearl and Kyong Park during the Storefront for Art and Architecture exhibition on the Titled Arc in 1985. Serra’s sculpture was precisely made for the site, but what would happen when the site changed – the front door relocated or even the buildings demolished? If the site was essential to “Titled Arc” as Serra claimed, then the work was bound to be destroyed when the world changed around it.
Finally after 30 years in the USA, the public art profession firmly knows its responsibilities for artwork maintenance. But what about context maintenance? How much responsibility exists for placing the work as it was intended? Once this is impossible as the context mutates or the artwork must be moved, how do we think about it?
The most famous is Michelangelo’s David. People know the work from the protected museum setting, not the outdoor plaza where the scale and role of the work is much different. Almost every art history book presents the work with even light and white walls, not the harsh sun and rough stone of the palazzo.
Fake David with Bandinelli’s Hercules at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
Real David Indoors with a museum neutral background
This sculpture in Montreal has entirely different feeling when examined against the early 20th century beaux art building. Here the sculpture blends with and accentuates the attributes of building. Juxtaposed (I bet the sculptor never considered juxtaposition – now a bedrock of contemporary public art reality.) with the 1980s glass, the artwork is a sweet, decorative music box.
At the Aesthetic Grounds visual essays site, I have posted some other comparisons. Some are photographing the same work with different back drops. Other such Aristide Maillol, “River” or Jonathan Borofsky’s Hammering Man, the reproduction of the work creates opportunities for comparison around the world.
The original installation of the artwork is only phase one in a potentially long history. The protectors of contextless objects in the museum, universities and galleries have no mandatory interest in the context driven public art. Therefore, the public art field needs to build its own intellectual methodology as all other institutions have a vested interest in ignoring the meanings and connotations of physical context.
See the CONTINUED text for documentation and Chris’ excellent observations regardin moved art in Philadelphia on Chris Purdom’s philart.net. Report on July 26, 2007
From Chris Purdom in Philadelphia
I’ve started documenting context changes on
philart.net as stuff gets moved around. These are to
me particularly bad.
Flame worked pretty well in a fairly enclosed space
surrounded by late 60s and early 70s urban fortress
architecture. Sitting on a corner with a Michael
Graves behind it, it looks old and lost.
Double Figure Eight echoed the windows of the Furness
behind it. While not as out of place looking as
Flame, it now looks like an afterthought.
And Bench Form, which was in the same park as Double
Figure Eight originally was stark and startling. Now
it looks like a bench with a funny background.