The Frick Collection’s Russell Page–designed garden, planned for destruction as part of the Manhattan museum’s expansion project, is one of 11 land-based art pieces announced as under threat this week by the Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). The organization’s annual compendium, Landslide 2014: Art and the Landscape, lists the Frick’s 70th Street Garden along with other works in the United States that TCLF says are at risk of disappearing, because of development, poor maintenance, or natural decay.
Charles A. Birnbaum, founder and president of TCLF, wrote an article on the Page garden for the Huffington Post earlier this year. In it he says:
Frick officials have the opportunity to acknowledge the importance of this garden and honor the artist who created it, landscape architect Russell Page. They should embrace it as a valued and unique part of its collection, and find a solution that addresses their programmatic needs and protects this important work of art.
Page’s work, like many of the others on the Landslide list, is easily overlooked, and illustrates the problem faced by much land-based art: people eventually want to fill the land with other things. TCLF’s 11 endangered sites for this year were selected from over a hundred submissions, and include more contemporary work that was never intended to be permanent. Leo Villareal’s 25,000 LED “Bay Lights,” draped on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, were only meant to be illuminated through March 2015; a campaign has been formed to make that through 2026. The list also features large-scale art projects like Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project in Detroit, which has experienced repeated arson in recent months, and Harvey Fite’s Opus 40 in Saugerties, New York, a huge environmental sculpture made of bluestone that was heavily damaged and destabilized in Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.
Other sites are examples of the difficulty of just conserving massive art projects when budgets and staff are limited, like the Watts Towers in Los Angeles or the White Rock Lake Wildlife Water Theater in Dallas; the latter, a wildlife viewing area by artists Frances Bagley and Tom Orr, has had its funding cut, leaving its poles rusting and solar-powered elements dark. Then there’s the Wells Petroglyph Preserve in New Mexico, where, due to recent drought and erosion, the ancient art that’s been viewable on its stones for so long is in danger of disappearing.
You can read narratives about each of the selections on the TCLF site. Landslide also includes new photography that shows the current state of each place, selections of which are presented below.