Aerial shot of Van Gogh’s Ear, below Rockefeller Center’s Rooftop Gardens
A walk down Fifth Avenue usually brings with it the expectation of high-end shops, windows with elaborate seasonal changes that capture our imagination, and many, many tourists. The artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset (famous for the fake Prada store outside of Marfa, Texas) play into our fantasy, creating a site-specific installation that turns Fifth Avenue on its ear – literally. The installation, Van Gogh’s Ear has appeared today on Fifth Avenue at the entrance to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center between 49th and 50th Streets. This large-scale, new work, stands singularly, as if for sale, but without the window.
This morning, we had the opportunity to interview the artists and take in the work from above and at street level.
With this installation, the artists elevate an ordinary object – a gleaming swimming pool – to the level of high art bringing attention to its context, with “the ambience of California, the plenty-of-space good life from the 1950s and 1960s.” “This piece is a nostalgic image of what would be a good life in former times,” said Elmgreen. The installation’s location is where New Yorkers have historically called the good-life, with a Gilded Age past of ornate mansions and present-day luxury retail like Saks Fifth Avenue, Ferragamo and Harry Winston.
As the Public Art Fund press release previously described, Van Gogh’s ear was “conceived specifically for this site, where fashion, commerce, tourism, business, and art collide, the work playfully contradicts our expectations of both this familiar object and iconic site.” The vertical orientation is deliberate, like a play on Marcel Duchamp’s readymade urinals, and also serves to highlight the form of a swimming pool, often hidden underground.
The artists Elmgreen & Dragset
The thirty-foot high, four-and-a-half ton pool and diving board were actually handcrafted in Poland by a team of twenty. It was then trucked to Belgium, where it was shipped by boat to New York City. The idea of the swimming pool has been a theme repeated throughout the partnership between Elmgreen & Dragset, with both of them hailing from Scandinavian countries where swimming pools were not the norm.
New York has seen its fair share of swimming pools, from dumpsters during Summer Streets to floating ones in the East River, Many are scattered throughout our parks and private buildings in all of five boroughs. But the sight of an upright swimming pool in the Channel Garden is sure to delight all.
Presented by the Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer, Van Gogh’s Ear is a fitting tribute to the artist himself, on the heels of what would have been the artist’s 163rd birthday. Van Gogh’s Ear will be on view at the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center from April 13 through June 3.