By Courtney M.
Jeff Koons, one of the world's most famous living sculptors, has been tapped by Friends of the High Line to construct and install a full-size replica of a 1943 Baldwin 2900 steam locomotive to dangle from a beamed crane in lower Manhattan. The High Line, currently one of New York's biggest attractions, is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the city streets. Open to the public, the park is maintained as a revolving community arts space with site-specific installations and exhibitions for the public to engage in against the backdrop of the city.
As an arts administrator, let me preface this post by saying that I am an enormous supporter of public arts projects that encourage interest and facilitate a dialogue amongst the community. However, the fact that this project will cost upwards of $25 million to build and install is seriously rubbing me the wrong way. The NY Times reports:
“Friends of the High Line has been a magnet for high-profile donations. In October, the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation announced a $20 million gift to the park. Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and Expedia, and his wife, the designer Diane von Furstenberg, had previously given $15 million to the High Line.”
It's true that large-scale public arts projects have long since been commissioned and constructed before. But because of the fact that unemployment, hunger and poverty is currently at an all-time high now for the people of New York (and beyond), this display strikes me as tasteless and totally unnecessary. True, Mr. Diller and Ms. von Furstenberg are free to spend and allocate their money as they so choose, but $25 million would go a long way to support community housing and hunger programs for the people who need it most. So, unless this train plans on periodically raining out rations for the starving, I'm sorry, but all I see here is a giant juicy steak dangling in front of the city's hungriest.
What do you guys think?