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Refusing to compromise on his artistic vision, James Turrell has closed his popular Skyspace installation at MoMA PS1 after reports surfaced that the scaffolding of a nearby luxury condo development was intruding into the work’s ceiling-cut frame.
“Meeting” (1980–86) is intended as space for meditation on the sky’s shifting palette of colors from dawn to dusk — not as a spot to observe the shifting skyline of New York City’s most rapidly gentrified neighborhood. Ideally, the installation allows for an uninhibited view of the sky; it also features undulating LED lights that change in accordance with the sun’s movement.
On January 25, a PS1 spokesperson confirmed to Gothamist that the artist’s installation would stay shuttered indefinitely. “After further conversation with James Turrell, we have closed ‘Meeting’ at the artist’s request and it will remain closed until the temporary construction scaffolding is no longer visible from the work.”
The museum also clarified in an email to artnet News that “the completed building will not be visible from the installation. We will re-open the work as soon as possible once the temporary construction scaffolding is no longer visible.”
The artist has yet to comment on the unfolding situation at the museum, or his decision to temporarily close the Skyspace installation.
This is not the first time one of Turrell’s works has 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 called 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 that installation “destroyed,” and created a new design for the space that wouldn’t have the Museum Tower in view.
The luxury development now blocking “Meeting” is the same Long Island City project that demolished the much-loved 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.)