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Van Bramer introduces legislation that would provide residents with greater say when public artwork is selected

Rendering from three weeks ago

Rendering of the ‘Sunbather’ from three weeks ago (Cost: $515,000)

Dec. 15, 2014 By Christian Murray

Legislation is being introduced to ensure that the community has more of a say before bright pink sculptures–or any other pieces of art–are erected via the city’s Percent for Art program.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the Cultural Affairs Committee, is sponsoring legislation that will provide the public with a greater voice when it comes to the selection of artwork.

“We are going to take a good comprehensive look at the Percent for Art Law to strengthen and bolster the community engagement process,” Van Bramer said.

The catalyst for Van Bramer’s legislation stemmed from the Percent for Art’s selection of an 8 ½ foot tall pink sculpture that is likely to be placed at 43rd/Jackson Avenue. The public had virtually no input into the decision, which was left to a panel consisting of representatives from a variety of city agencies and three local arts experts.

The artwork the panel selected—called the ‘Sunbather’—has been universally panned ever since a rendering of it was posted online.

Van Bramer said that the selection process needs to be changed and that the public must be able to weigh in on it early in the process.

“I want to make sure that there are public meetings–including town hall meetings–as part of the process,” he said. At the moment, he added, “there are a select few on a private panel who make these decisions… and then they consult the community board when it is almost a done deal.”

Van Bramer, a strong advocate for the program and the arts community, said “the panel should come to the public early in the process and discuss what the plans are.” Then the panel should incorporate that feedback and proceed further.

The Percent for Art program became law in 1982 and requires a portion of funds that are raised for city construction projects to be set aside for public art. Van Bramer said the law needs to be revised to ensure that all city residents will be heard whenever a piece of artwork is going through the selection process.

Councilman Van Bramer

Councilman Van Bramer

Van Bramer said that he spoke to Dept. of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl yesterday about the legislation and asked him to come to Long Island City for a town hall meeting to discuss the ‘Sunbather’ as well as the Percent for Art program in general.

Finkelpearl is scheduled to speak in Long Island City in January—and Van Bramer said that it is not a done-deal that the ‘Sunbather’ will go up until the public is heard.

Furthermore, Van Bramer said that the administration cares about transparency and that the renderings should be online and available at request going forward.

Ten days ago, when this publication asked for the rendering, a spokesman for the program said: “They [the renderings] are not made publicly available until the proposal has been reviewed and is approved.”

State Sen. Mike Gianaris described the Percent for Arts selection process as “very bureaucratic” when he was interviewed Saturday.

“This decision was too much top down without consultation with local civic groups or the community board,” he said. “Yet we are the people who live here and have to see it every day when they drop this thing in.”

Several people have taken to comment boards and social media to voice their dislike of the sculpture—with one critic referring to it as the ‘Pink Panther’ and another saying that Stevie Wonder must have selected it.

Meanwhile, Hunt Rodriguez, who placed his own sculpture on Jackson Avenue last week in protest, said today that the whole project upsets him.

His biggest beef is that it comes at a cost of $515,000. “We are spending all that money on this nonsense, while the city falls apart.”

Hunt Rodregizus sculpture

Hunt Rodriguez’ sculpture

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10 Comments

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marie

Maybe some of this funds could have allocated to welcome back some of the 5 pointz artists , or to save.some of the murals which were destroyed to be reminded of what was once the number tourist attraction in queens, ..

Reply
Richard Mazda

I have commented elsewhere on this sculpture. The worst thing about this is the lack of consultation. I have not found a single person who has spoken in favor of this design and I am talking about artists who would generally support another artist. Nothing that I can find about Ohad Meromi suggests that he has created anything similar. Most of his work has a very different almost technical aspect to it. One wonders whether he has ever worked in Bronze before? An a disgusting Pepto Bismol pink ? His reason.. the area is drab and needs color. A very underdeveloped thought process if you ask me. Not worthy of the large fees that the artist will receive.

Further anyone who knows this road will tell you that in two years or so this sculpture with its nooks, crannies and crevices will be grimy, dirty and almost impossible to maintain. It will be an eyesore that far from improving with age as the artist suggested will become a bigger eyesore.

We have world class sculptors in Queens why weren’t they properly considered.

My last thought on the matter is how convenient that the Sculpture center was consulted and that they think the ideal position is right by the road that the Center is on. Now they can tell people that you can find the Sculpture Center by looking for the big pink sculpture.

The entire selection process is elitist and indefensible.

Reply
Two Cents

I’m a little leery of the public making decisions about art because I worry about some trite, sentimental crap always gaining favor.

But then again, this Percent for Art group is ripe for cronyism and corruption. And if the dopes who run this program at least tried to choose a piece that was more appropriate for a public installation — and was actually GOOD art — then maybe this whole fiasco wouldn’t happen in the first place.

This group should do the proper thing and resign right now. Then the next group can redeem themselves and pick another piece of sculpture that is more suitable.

Reply
Amadeo Plaza

I agree with his point. I’m not the biggest fan of creativity by committee. More often than not, it results in less inspiring work. That said, however, this isn’t the easiest piece of art to swallow. And for it to cost so much tax money, to be displayed so publicly, and in a community that’s so tightly knit…just seems like a misfire. If it didn’t look like it was made of bubblegum, I think you might have different opinions, but…it does. If it were more of a bronze/rust color from the start, hearkening back to LIC’s industrial past, I think it would have been an easier sell. I know it’s just a color, but when you have to see it every single day of your life…

Reply
On the Pink Turd

The big problem I have with Meromi’s piece is not just that it is hideous, it’s that is isn’t right for public installation in a busy urban environment. You make a good point about the need for the piece to be harmonious with the environment and history of the place and the people in it. With the pink turd, there’s no easy way for the public to relate to or interract with this piece in the same way as other public art in NYC, like the Cube at Astor Place, the Alice statue in Central Park, or countless other better pieces of work around the world that become iconic. Instead, you can only view it from afar, probably with a sense of alienation. Meromi’s work seems to be more suited to a courtyard of a contemporary art museum, and even then I doubt it would charm anyone.

Reply
Ro

Since this money is designated for the arts it could have been used in a more productive way for that purpose. Instead of commissioning one project they should have created a program where that money would pay for the installation of existing local artist’s sculptures on a temporary basis. This will give exposure to the artist and create variety for our streets. We know that we will never find a piece of art that everyone will love so a circulating exhibition of sculptures would a least not condemn the neighborhood to one specific piece of art forever. This is a missed opportunity enrich our streets.

Reply
that WAS Fast

If JVB can make this happen so fast, I expect to see the changes necessary in the corrupt CB2 board come about swiftly as well. Whaddya say JVB? Now that we know you can act fast, I don’t really see any other excuses… aside from the whole “some of those people fund my campaign and I dont wanna piss them off” 🙂

Reply
Really?

Is this really that important? Maybe Jimmy should spend more time trying to fix the CB2 board instead of worrying about this!

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