Nov. 26, 2014 By Christian Murray
The Department of Cultural Affairs is close to erecting a bright pink, 8 ½ feet tall sculpture on Jackson Avenue.
The artwork would be located there permanently and the cost to taxpayers would be about $515,000. Furthermore, the owners of the adjacent sites have not been notified—which is typical for this type of a artwork since it is part of an arcane city program.
The Department of Cultural Affairs through its ‘Percent for Art’ initiative has selected an artist to create the piece and it is a long way in the process of getting it approved. The artwork is called “The Sunbather” which is likely to be placed on the grass median by the crosswalk near 43rd Avenue.
Public inclusion in the process has been limited—with the organization electing not to share the rendering with the greater public or with this news site. It also won’t put the rendering up online until it is approved.
“They [the renderings] are not made publicly available until the proposal has been reviewed and is approved,” said Ryan Max, a spokesman for the Department of Cultural Affairs, in a statement.
Furthermore, Community Board 2 at this time does not have a copy of the rendering. Last Thursday when the plan was presented to CB2’s Land Use committee for the first time, hard copies were not distributed. It was shown via a PowerPoint presentation.
This news site had to get a copy of the document through undisclosed sources.
The members of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee were completely unaware of the project until Thursday—despite it being in the works for some time.
However, the manager of Community Board 2’s office had been notified of the plan and did attend one of the panel meetings held by Percent for Art. However, it is not common practice at CB2 for the manager to notify the board of all discussions and meetings.
Sara Reisman, the director for Percent for Art at the Department of Cultural Affairs, presented the artwork to the committee.
Reisman said the artwork was selected by a 3-person panel that was comprised of a member from Socrates Sculpture Park., Sculpture Center and a local artist. The artwork had been chosen from a large pool of artists.
The panel selected the work of Ohad Meromi, a Brooklyn-based artist, who is likely to receive a design fee of about $100,000 for the work.
One board member asked why a Long Island City artist had not been selected to do the piece who was more familiar with the neighborhood and its history.
Reisman said the decision was ultimately made by the 3-person art panel, which selected Meromi’s work.
“We saw some of his [Meromi’s] previous projects and a lot of them dealt with the figure, architecture, architecture of the body, performance—the kind of ambiguous space between performing and watching a performance,” Reisman said.
She said the artwork would be a bright pink magenta made of bronze. While it wasn’t disclosed at the meeting, the cost of the materials would be $225,000 and its installation an additional $45,600, according to records.
Penny Lee, who works with the Department of City Planning and has been involved in the project for some time, told the committee that the artwork was “not just a whimsical piece he came with up. It may look whimsical but an enormous amount of thought and attention to place was put into the design.”
However, one board member who said he is an advocate for public art didn’t appreciate these subtleties: “With art some people love it, some people hate it…but this looks like you dug up Gumby’s grandmother and threw it on the median.”
Lisa Deller, the head of the Land Use Committee, said that “One Percent for Art seems like a good thing but it does not look very attractive in the rendering in my humble opinion. You could just as well plant daffodils and people would probably be happy.”
Deller called on Reisman to present the artwork before Community Board 2’s full board meeting on December 4 in order for the entire board to get a better understanding it.
Reisman was hesitant. “This is what we attempted to do in this setting…We typically don’t do two meetings.” She then said: “If I can come, I will be there.”
Deller then asked if someone from her organization could attend if should couldn’t. Reisman responded: “Someone will be there.”
Nevertheless, since the rendering is not publicly available, only those who attend the meeting or are CB2 board members will be privy to it.
When Reisman was asked for a copy of the rendering at the Land Use committee meeting by this news outlet, she refused to provide one. “I think this (the community board meeting) is a level of publicness that will help, right?”
A representative for Percent for Art said that it has kept the community board in the loop the whole time.
“Community boards are invited to participate in Percent for Art panels – and indeed a representative from Community Board 2 attended the panel for this project earlier this spring, so they have been aware of the design and the project’s progress for a while,” Max said in a statement.
No matter, Deller was not happy with the process at Thursday’s meeting.
“Everyone at this table feels surprised that this has being going on for a long time and we have not had any input and that at the last moment they are coming in and showing us what is going there. It is very dis-empowering,” Deller said to fellow committee members after Reisman had left.
Furthermore, Deller said that when the Hunters Point Library was being designed a series of proposals were put before the community board and they were reviewed beforehand. She said the board played an active part in the selection.
“When she comes in and says ‘this is the way we do it’ I beg to differ. It has not always been this way in the past and I feel like it is a fait accompli.”