James Turrell’s Skyspace at MoMA PS1 is in Danger

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Filed Under Art, Journal

From the MoMA PS1 exhibit site.

From Gothamist:

For decades, artist James Turrell has been synonymous with disintegrating the boundaries between space and light, especially within his Skyspace installations peppered throughout the world. Turrell’s New York-based Skyspace installation, titled Meeting, is permanently housed inside of MoMA PS1 in Long Island City—the first of his in the United States, it has been there since 1980. There you come face to face with a rectangular hole in the ceiling, an unobstructed aperture revealing a sublime slice of sky. It’s framed by undulating LED lights, changing in tune with the evening sun’s movements; the sky, and everything around you, appears to shift optically. We don’t need to tell you how rare it is to find this space, and a brief moment to breathe, in the city.

Which is why we were disappointed when we received a tip from one of our readers, who had recently visited PS1 and noticed something creeping into Meeting. The obstruction, pictured in the photograph above, seems to be protruding from the gargantuan high-rises going up across the street from PS1, at 22-44 Jackson Avenue. These two residential buildings, which replaced the former legendary graffiti haven 5Pointz, are also called 5Pointz and will house 1,115 units total (including 223 affordable housing units) when they’re finished.

Meeting, is an beautiful, breathtaking Skyspace work from James Turrell. Visit any of his works, and I think you’ll have an enjoyable experience. An artist, who no doubt has a special and deep cultural significance in American Art. In my opinion, Turrell sits upon the echelon of other great American artists such as Richard Serra, Warhol, Stephen Shore or Willem de Kooning (and many, many others to name).

As reported by Gothamist, his work, Meeting is in danger of destruction. Thankfully, it appears that the scaffolding of the new apartments, are only visible for now. The 5Pointz Apartments building will not be visible within the portal of Turrell’s work when construction completes. The razing of which the previous 5Pointz graffiti complex is an entirely separate, albeit equally as tragic and troubling incident as well.

Furthermore, Turrell’s works are constantly caught in the crossfire of hyper-development high-rises. In fact, a housing high-rise claimed a Turrellian victim once before — in my hometown of Dallas, Texas:

[…] The neighborly agreement they had allegedly worked out was that the Museum Tower structure wouldn’t go above 20 stories, so as to not interfere with the sculpture center’s aesthetic vibe. However, it seems that after Nasher died in 2007 there was a redesign, and the eventual building now stands some 40 stories tall.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to gain access inside “Tending (Blue)” for a peek at the “destroyed” view.  The sign on a sandwich board outside it read:

Because a clear view of the sky from the interior of “Tending (Blue)” is now obstructed by Museum Tower, the artist, James Turrell, has declared the work destroyed.

What happened at the Nasher Sculpture Center was a down-right tragedy, a cautionary-tale (we should hope), a robbery of culture, and a rape of art. I am holding my breath for the Turrell installation at MoMA PS1. All we can do now is hope for the PS1 installation’s survival.

Sighs.

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