For 12 weeks in the spring of 2013, the organizers of the Water Tank Project, a public art project set to raise awareness on water scarcity, plan to decorate 300 water tanks around New York City with art by artists such as Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, Catherine Opie, Lawrence Weiner, Marilyn Minter and Jay-Z. Even more shocking than Jay-Z being billed as a visual artist is the project’s new plea via Kickstarter to raise $1 million to fund the project, even though they have already raised significant funds from several foundations.
First announced in March and sponsored by Word Above the Street, a nonprofit focusing on environmental and water conservation,the Water Tank Project has already raised a significant amount of money with Whole Foods Market contributing $60,000 for the project.
Recently, the Water Tank Project started a Kickstarter fund for $1 million dollars with rewards such as a BBQ at artist Dustin Yellin‘s studio and a personal tour of one of these water tanks. As of today, the project has made roughly $37,000 for this celebrity artist-studded project. In addition to the major artists water tower pieces, the Water Tank Project is going to reserve a whopping 15 of the 300 water tanks for an open call for artists and community members.
While the Water Tank Project’s self-proclaimed goal with the Kickstarter fund is to “be the first public art show that would be funded by you, the people,” the plea for individual donations seems to raise questions when compared to the roster of art stars and Jay-Z. Don’t Jay-Z or Jeff Koons individually have enough money to spare to contribute to the project? Couldn’t they find funding through their collectors, galleries and other connections? Even without relying on the artists’ personal fame, the Water Tank Project seems connected with enough big names that they clearly have access to public art grants and foundations.
With these obvious paths to funding the project, the Kickstarter fund just seems like a huge waste of individual money. If these artists and activists want to decorate New York City’s Water Towers, why do they have to rely on the public to fund it? It’s the 99% funding the 1% at the end of the day. Though the good thing about Kickstarter is that the democratic nature of the funding medium will eventually decide if the whole thing is worth it. My vote is no.
Finally, I just want to ask: who other than Jay-Z has enough access to rooftop decks and views to see the art-wrapped water tanks often enough for them to make an impact?