From Jeppe to Jeff—6 of Our Favorite Public Art Fund Projects

For the third year in a row, Artsy has partnered with Public Art Fund (PAF) on their spring benefit & auction.  Fueling PAF’s mission to bring meaningful exhibitions to the urban landscape, this benefit auction also provides a special opportunity to bid on lots by some of the same contemporary artists mounting large scale installations across New York. Here are 6 notable Public Art Fund projects and corresponding works you can now collect!

Elmgreen and Dragset

Just this week, artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset debuted their first project with PAF. At first glance, a giant cyan blue peanut,  “Van Gogh’s Ear” is instead a pristinely fashioned, excavated swimming pool, complete with a diving board and ladder. Nicholas Baum, PAF’s Director & Chief Curator, points to the myriad art historical references contained in the installation: “surrealism, conceptual readymades, and abstract sculpture… from the back, it looks like a giant abstract modernist sculpture, while from the front, it becomes clear that the work was also inspired by David Hockney’s series of swimming pool paintings and Ed Ruscha’s photos from the mid-1960s and early 1970s."  Regardless of the vantage point, the work is fast becoming Rockefeller Center’s newest and most photogenic landmark.  In the spirit of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, both “Van Gogh’s Ear”  and “1 hour 46 minutes”—made of marble, bronze, and lacquered wood—allow the duo to play with the notion of presentation and challenge their viewers’ expectations.  

Jeff Koons

Covered in 50,000 flowering plants, Jeff Koons’ “Split-Rocker” soared some 37 feet high above Rockefeller Center during the summer of 2014.  Featuring the same pony cum “Dino” toy head, here the porcelain form of “Split-Rocker Vase” can be filled with a vibrant bouquet, creating an equally playful tension between the restraint of the vessel and the implicit freedom referenced by the natural, though hyper-arranged, form within. Of his large scale installation—equally relevant in “Vase”—Koons said, “I love the dialogue with nature in creating a piece that needs so much control (…) while at the same time giving up the control. The balance between control and giving up control reminds us of the polarity of existence.” 

Isa Genzken

Currently on view in the southeast corner of Central Park, Isa Genzken’s oversized “Two Orchids” questions the prestige and royal origins of this now universally beloved plant. “Something of a diaristic piece, Genzken made ‘Untitled (2016),’ while in New York directing the installation of her Public Art Fund exhibition,” says Baume. Genzken often uses consumer materials to enact cultural commentary; here she employs a recent Wall Street Journal, “binding it tightly with her signature brightly colored adhesive tape, [to pay a] playful tribute to New York City's ubiquitous grid.”

Jeppe Hein

Recently closed, Jeppe Hein’s “Please Touch the Art” imbued a fanciful spirit into the landscape of Brooklyn Bridge Park throughout the radiant summer and frosty winter season. A series of interactive installations—curvilinear park benches, mirror maze, and geyser house—sought to engage park-goers. Of the installation Hein noted, “it creates a social playground...I’m trying to lift people out of their everyday lives and open their eyes to something new.”  With its reflective chrome lacquer and the almost comic buoyant sense of whimsy,  “Mirror Balloon,” recalls themes from the artist’s recent installation on a more intimate scale. 

Ugo Rondinone

A member of PAF’s Board and a Co-Chair of the benefit, “Ugo is an artist who we have a very special relationship with as an organization,” explains Baume. In 2013, for “Human Nature,” Rondinone’s nine anthropomorphic stone sculptures transformed Rockefeller Center— from a bird’s eye, these colossal forms seemed at once anchored to the plaza and also mid-lumber. With its primary colors and geometric forms, Rondinone’s “red grey blue clock” serves as the perfect counterpoint to “Human Nature"—highlighting Rondinone’s unique ability to work across medium and scale to evoke seemingly contradictory feelings of wistfulness and cheer, weight and buoyancy, opacity and transparency.

Hank Willis Thomas

Frequent Public Art Fund collaborator, Hank Willis Thomas’ current project, “The Truth Is I See You” at Brooklyn’s MetroTech Commons, features a series of speech balloons—a mixture of open form sculptural works that served as benches for introspection and signage in 22 languages on the themes of understanding and truth. Thomas was interested in uncovering “what gets lost in translation, even between people who mean well to each other.”  Approaching his multidisciplinary practice from a Conceptual perspective, Thomas often draws on recognizable text or imagery—the comic book speech bubble, corporate logos, typeface— to subvert viewers’ expectations and assumptions. Employing the extremely captivating lenticular printing technology, “Money Money Money Money Money” explores the seductive but malignant undercurrent of advertisements and the indoctrinating messages often espoused.

Explore these and other lots in Public Art Fund’s Benefit Auction—bidding ends on April 19, 2016 at 10:30PM (ET). Register to bid now. 

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