Nov. 10, 2016 By Christian Murray
The controversial pink sculpture planned for the median at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and 43rd Avenue is about to go up, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in a Facebook post today.
The 8 ½-foot-tall sculpture, called the Sunbather, comes at a cost of $515,000 and is part of the Department of Cultural Affairs ‘Percent for Art’ initiative.
The DCLA selected the sculpture, which will be permanent, based on the opinion of an expert panel. The public art is required since New York law requires that one percent of the budget for City-funded construction projects be spent on public art.
The sculpture sparked a heated discussion when Community Board 2’s land use committee first heard of the plan and saw the design at a November 2014 committee meeting.
The committee members said they felt caught off guard by the proposal and were upset that they did not have more input in the design.
Penny Lee, who works with the Department of City Planning, told the committee at the time that the artwork was “not just a whimsical piece he [the artist] 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 claimed to be 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.”
The DCLA after that meeting declined to make the renderings of the design public, claiming that presenting them via a PowerPoint presentation at the committee meeting was adequate. The design was not on its website.
Other board members were concerned as to why a Long Island City artist wasn’t selected to do the work. Artist Oham Meromi, a Brooklyn resident was selected, and is expected to be paid a little over $100,000 for his work.
Since the uproar over the sculpture, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has passed legislation requiring the DCLA to provide advance notification on its website of projects it intends to work on, and to present the design at a public meeting in the community district where the project is to be installed.
On Facebook today, Van Bramer wrote: “While some may love this piece and some won’t, public art is vitally important to our civic life–it can bring joy, inspire contemplation, and foster community. This is a significant piece of permanent public art, which I want to see more of in New York City.”