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Come next spring, a giant chameleon, a standalone carillon, or a singular, upturned breast may grace the elevated grounds of the High Line. They’re just three of 12 sculptures proposed by 12 artists and vying to inaugurate what will be the industrial park’s first space dedicated specifically to art: the High Line Plinth. If that name sounds familiar, you’re likely thinking of London’s Fourth Plinth, the prominent pedestal in Trafalgar Square that’s currently home to a colossal thumb by David Shrigley. Friends of the High Line drew inspiration directly from that 176-year-old plinth for this endeavor, which is forthcoming in the spring of 2018.
The nonprofit conservancy already has an impressive history of promoting culture through High Line Art, which has placed a variety of exhibitions, commissions, and performances all along the park’s tracks, but the new plinth will establish a spot specifically for contemporary art. It will serve the same purpose as its pal across the pond, hosting a series of works by international artists on an 18-month rotating schedule — and yes, you can expect them all to be rather grand in scale, as conspicuous as the ones that have towered over the British square.
“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,” Cecilia Alemani, High Line Art’s director and chief curator said in a statement. “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.”
Set to stand at West 30th Street and Tenth Avenue, on what will be the park’s newest and largest open space, known as the Spur, the plinth will be seen easily from the road below. The installation of the inaugural artwork will coincide with the Spur’s opening; until then, High Line Art will be mulling over which of the 12 proposals to use to set the program in motion. The aforementioned chameleon is the imagining of British artist Jeremy Deller; the bell tower — intended to chime songs by Michael Stipe — is the vision of New Yorker Jonathan Berger; and the boob — to be sculpted of soil, sand, and clay — the unabashed creation of German artist Lena Henke. Other proposals include Paola Pivi‘s 22-foot-tall version of the Statue of Liberty, whose face would change weekly to represent someone who either attained or is seeking freedom in the United States; Sam Durant‘s drone that would rise over pedestrians and double as a weather vane; and Simone Leigh’s first monumental work in her ongoing sculptural series on the black female body, Anatomy of Architecture. Others on the shortlist are Minerva Cuevas, Charles Gaines, Matthew Day Jackson, Roman Ondak, Haim Steinbach, and Cosima von Bonin.
High Line Art selected this dozen from over 50 proposals recommended by an international advisory committee that included curators Helen Molesworth of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and Reem Fadda of the Guggenheim’s Abu Dhabi Project, as well as artists Rashid Johnson, Adrian Villar Rojas, and Carol Bove. In the spring, two finalists will be selected, but you’ll be able to judge the contenders for yourself, in person, sooner than that: the High Line will exhibit sculptural models of all of the shortlisted projects between February 9 and April 30 at a space on West 14th Street.
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