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James Turrell’s “Meeting” at MoMA PS1 (image via @jenist/Twitter)

A Long Island City development project’s scaffolding has slowly crept into the skyspace of James Turrell’s New York installation, “Meeting” (1980–86) at MoMA PS1. Excising an aperture from the museum’s ceiling, the Light and Space pioneer’s project is framed by undulating LEDs that focus viewers on the atmosphere’s shifting color palette from dawn to dusk. It’s likely that the visionary artist’s goal was to have museumgoers meditate on the sky’s aesthetic qualities, and not the Queens’ neighborhood’s shifting skyline.

But thanks to the borough’s rapid gentrification, Turrell must confront new and unforeseen challenges that threaten his work’s purity. Such intrusions weren’t likely on his mind when he started building “Meeting,” according to Craig Adcock, a professor of art history at the University of Iowa who wrote the book James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space.

“It might have been a distant worry,” he tells Gothamist. “Of course, having a high-rise visible there through the ceiling and aperture will ruin it. It won’t work properly if there’s a building with lights up that’s visible.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for MoMA PS1 noted that the currently visible scaffolding will not be visible when the building is complete, mediating fears that the sky pollution is here to stay.

The artist has yet to comment on the unfolding situation at the museum.

Ironically, the skyscraper intruding into Turrell’s workspace belongs to the same luxury development project that bulldozed the much-beloved graffiti citadel 5Pointz in 2014. Located across the street from MoMA PS1 at 22–44 Jackson Avenue, the new building complex began construction in 2015 and is expected to house 1,115 units total (including 223 affordable housing units) when finished. Last year, a federal judge ordered the real estate developer Jerry Wolkoff to pay $6.7 million to artists whose work was lost when he whitewashed 5Pointz’s walls in 2013. (In 2016, the project also suffered a series of protests when Wolkoff reneged on his promise to use union labor at the site.)

This is not the first time one of Turrell’s Skyspace installations suffered from nearby construction projects. As Hyperallergic reported in 2013, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas experienced a similar issue when a luxury condo named the Museum Tower became visible within the artist’s “Tending, (Blue)” (2003). A redesign in 2007 made the tower stand twice as high as originally planned. Turrell declared the work “destroyed,” and created a new design for the space that wouldn’t have the Museum Tower in view. As with finding a solution to the MoMA PS1 issue, those plans have yet to materialize.

Zachary Small

Zachary Small was the senior writer at Hyperallergic and has written for The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, Artforum, and other publications. They have also appeared on WNYC. They tweet and instagram...

17 replies on “James Turrell’s Famous MoMA PS1 Skyspace Interrupted by Neighboring Luxury Condo Development”

  1. I suspect many aircraft have encroached on Mr. Terrell’s Skyspace installations. Would an art patron be patient enough today to wait for it to pass?

    1. Aircrafts, however, are part of the constant changing visual identity of the sky. I don’t believe he intended to keep it free of clouds either.

      1. The person just have to move forward 2 feet and take an other photo without the new bldg (better take their shoes off to lower their body) ;-))

  2. Just have James Turrell’s newest and most gauche patrons, Kanye and Kim Kardashian. buy the skyscraper and tear it down.

  3. When I was there it looked like it was only scaffolding that was in view, and that the building just sneaks out of site lines, so it’ll probably be fine by the time the building is done?

  4. Mmm ….bugs, birds, planes, clouds and even trash fly over too. This entire situation reminds me of visiting the P. Bruegel exhibit in Vienna recently. It was impossible to enjoy, appreciate or even see the art without an endless parade passing between it and my eyes . . . so it became part of the experience . . . and maybe part of the context of the art too.

  5. Art doesn’t belong in a museum. If designed and created to go there, it has to fend for itself and gets what it deserves.

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