Rockefeller Center is known for hosting monumental art installations. The Art Deco development has been the site of art works like Jeff Koon’s 45-foot tall ballerina, a giant upturned swimming pool, and most recently a massive iron throne, but this spring the center’s art scene will take on an even bigger scale. In partnership with Frieze New York and Tisham Speyer, Rockefeller Center will host Frieze Sculpture, a new public art initiative that showcases not just one work of art, but twenty pieces spread throughout the outdoor plaza and inside select lobbies of the surrounding buildings.
Walking along Fifth Avenue, pedestrians will first be struck by a giant sculpture from Jaume Plensa, a new piece that looms over the entrance to the channel gardens. Behind the Walls beckons pedestrians to come in and discover more. Brett Littman, the director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum and curator of Frieze Sculpture, did not originally intend to place a sculpture in this location for the sake of doing something different, but it the end it proved to be the perfect spot to put a statement piece that will draw people in.
Ibrahim Mahama, Untitled, 2019
Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Plaza contains a mix of sculptures, from fourteen different international artists, that have been on view in galleries around the world, as well as brand new works that have never been seen before. One example of a new piece is an untitled work by Ibrahim Mahama, an artist from Ghana. Mahama’s piece is made up of fifty flags that have replaced the flags of the UN Nations which usually encircle the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Littman placed sculptures both inside and outside throughout Rockefeller Center including inside the lobbies of 1, 10 and 45 Rockefeller Plaza. Near each piece there is a marker that notes the title, artist, year of creation and gallery from which each piece was taken.
Goshka Macuga, International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation Configuration 25, First Man: Yuri Gagarin, 2016 inside 10 Rockefeller Plaza
Though Littman did not originally start out with an overarching conceptual idea when the project began this January, as pieces came together he started to make conceptual relationships, especially between the pieces and locations where they are displayed. For example, Littman placed two speech bubble shaped sculptures by artist Hank Willis Thomas in front of Isamu Noguchi’s News which adorns the facade of 50 Rockefeller Plaza, the former AP Building. Noguchi’s News, which depicts reporters getting the scoop, and Thomas’s pieces, for Littman, are tied together in the theme of media and expression. Moving to plaza where you will find the Christmas tree during the holidays, Littman arranged a variety of different sculptures that show “what sculpture could be and what sculpture could do.” The pieces in this area are all of different styles and employ different artistic techniques.
Hank Willis Thomas, Josephine and Kazumi, 2018
EB Kelly, Tishman Speyer Managing Director of Rockefeller Center, points out that what makes this installation different than past Rockefeller Center installation is that Frieze Sculpture is “not just about coming to see a single piece of art, but getting the whole experience of a sculpture park.” Frieze Sculpture will be on view through June 28th, 2019. The installation will be accompanied by programming such as guided tours and art workshops. If you are planning to visit, check out this map to help locate each sculpture. See more photographs of the sculptures in the installation below:
Aaron Curry, Metnedaruth 20089/2014
Joan Miro, Porte II, 1974
Walter De Maria, Truth/Beauty, 1993-2016
Nick Cave, Untitled, 2018
Jose Davila, Joint Effort, 2019
Sarah Sze, Split Stone, 2018
Paulo Nazareth, DRY CUT, 2019