I am lucky enough to have seen Mark di Suvero’s sculptures at Storm King Art Center. However, it was a completely different experience viewing them juxtaposed against the Manhattan skyline on Governors Island:
Echo depicts a nine-year old girl from Plensa’s Barcelona neighborhood, lost in a state of thoughts and dreams.
Plensa’s sculpture also refers to an episode in Greek mythology in which the loquacious nymph Echo is forced as punishment to repeat only the thoughts of others. Both monumental in size and inviting in subject, the peaceful visage of Echo creates a tranquil and introspective atmosphere amid the cacophony of central Manhattan.
You can also see a video of the making of the 44 ft sculpture (YouTube)
They reminded me of a trip to Chicago and his wonderful installation in the city – Crown Fountain :
The giant statue inspired poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to create Ozymandias in 1818 – but it seems startlingly relevant to current events.
He knew what had happened to Egypt after Ramesses – with the crown passing to Libyans and Nubians, Persians and Macedonians, and Ramesses’ statue itself squabbled over by European intruders. Shelley’s poem ‘Ozymandias’ is a meditation not on imperial grandeur, but on the transience of earthly power, and in it Ramesses’ statue becomes a symbol of the futility of all human achievement.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.
Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.
So it is heartbreaking to learn that Shanghai authorities have demolished his studio which he had the strength to describe as an ultimate work of art.
British journalist Jon Snow met Ai last October and the artist handed him some sunflower seeds from the exhibition. Snow has kept them in his jacket pocket ever since.
Anish Kapoor is one of my favourite artists so I was very happy to catch his first outdoor exhibition in London on my visit home. I have also been lucky enough to see one of the same pieces, Sky Mirror 2006, at the Rockefeller Center in New York and Cloud Gate , on a visit to Chicago in 2009.
As the New Statesman says:
“From his early pigment sculptures that constructed deep voids, Kapoor has asked questions about the nature of existence and belief. He investigates what we hardly know, turning the world upside down and inside out to extract meaning. It gives us a glimpse at the mysteries both of the human imagination and the universe we inhabit.”