New York City is getting a Fourth Plinth of its own. Much like the empty pedestal in London's Trafalgar square, which was originally constructed to hold a statue of William IV but now hosts a rotating series of commissioned sculptures, the High Line Plinth will serve as a new "landmark destination" for curated art on one of the final stretches of the elevated park above West 30th Street and 10th Avenue. Opening sometime in 2018, the plinth is designed to be the focal point of the Spur, an offshoot of the park that includes a 4,500-square-foot piazza, a concession area, balconies, and stepped seating.
High Line Art, the arm of Friends of the High Line that manages its public art projects, reviewed more than 50 proposals before shortlisting 12 for the inaugural Plinth commissions. The artists, who hail from all corners of the globe, include veterans such as Haim Steinbach and Charles Gaines, mid-careerists like Matthew Day Jackson and Cosima von Bonin, and emerging talents such as Minerva Cuevas, Lena Henke, and Jonathan Berger.
“The High Line Plinth will provide artists with an opportunity to work on a larger scale than ever before possible on the High Line, and to engage with the breathtaking vistas that open up around this new site,” said Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of High Line Art. “As a new landmark to this space, the High Line Plinth will create a new symbol of this incredible nexus of horticulture, art, and public space in the ever-evolving metropolis that is New York City.”
For the 2.3 million visitors the High Line receives annually, the Plinth provides an opportunity unlike any other: “free, world-class artwork 365 days a year,” according to Robert Hammond, co-founder and executive director of Friends of the High Line.
“The High Line Plinth will expand the program’s impact by creating a one-of-a-kind destination for public art on the Spur, a new section of the park with even more space for public programming and dynamic horticulture,” he said.
The Fourth Plinth has served as a stage for subversive, politically charged, or otherwise controversial pieces that have fueled debate. The High Line Plinth is expected to be no different, Alemani said.
Ascent of a Woman, an entry from New York’s Lena Henke, is a “singular, gigantic, upturned” breast that will slowly erode in the face of the elements. The breast’s outer layer of soil, sand, and clay will eventually give way to new forms cast into the inner mold. Unapologetically sensual, the work pits the city and the body in a “surreal entanglement … challenging New York City’s rational and modernist approach to public space.”
Los Angeles–based Sam Durant proposes an abstract representation of an unmanned Predator drone, rotating like a wind vane atop a 20-foot column. In the shadow of the aircraft, visitors may imagine the specter of surveillance casting a creeping, growing influence across the world.
Paola Pivi, who was born in Italy but lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska, suggests a 20-foot-high reproduction of the Statue of Liberty wearing an inflatable cartoon-style mask in the guise of someone who has gained his or her freedom in the United States, or seeks to do so. The stories of the individuals featured would be made available to visitors online.
Less polarizing, perhaps, is Londoner Jeremy Deller’s slide, which takes the form of a giant chameleon. “There is something magical about chameleons; they can do things that we can only dream of,” he explained.
To start with, High Line Art wants to whittle the proposals down to two—you can vote for your favorites, or, if you prefer, recommend something else altogether.
“I am excited to work with artists who think critically about the meaning of public space and public life, and create artworks that not only respond to the site, but also spark conversations among a wide audience,” Alemani added.