“It’s difficult to hold the world’s interest for more than half an hour at a time.” (Salvador Dali, Diary of a Genius, 1964
Elmgreen & Dragset received an important commission from the Public Art Fund to create a work of art, in this case, a sculptural installation, for weary travelers using the train rails along the Eastern Corridor arriving at or departing from Penn Station. Certainly not an easy task for any artist! Penn Station was identified for renovation as it was dreary, dank, depressing, and devoid of any positive energy when commuters arrived at this heavily used train station. Located in NYC, Penn Station needed to have an irresistible urban energy that spoke to, or at least reflected New YorCity’s urban energy!
Rail passengers and commuters had become institutionally corrupted by the noticeable framework of decay afflicting Penn Station since the mid 1960s! City planners, collaborating with Architects, artists, urban designers, and politicians, desired a space of arrival or demarcation that would be re-energize the millions of passengers whose weekly journeys took them to Penn Station. But, how do you re-energize a space that felt like time had passed on without remorse?
Elmgreen & Dragset were confident in their years of collaboration, coupled with the strong power relationship that had generated with the strong cadre of assistants in their Berlin studio, to research and explore their surreal, fantasy vision of New York City’s urban energy. Elmgreen & Dragset, with their studio assistants, developed the hanging image of over 100 tall buildings reaching down from the ceiling at the 31st Street doors of Penn Station to the commuters/passengers passing through the Moynihan Train Hall of Penn Station. The adaptive reuse of the light court within the James A. Farley Post Office was a brilliant solution to providing LIGHT and vast OPEN SPACE to weary travelers on Amtrak. Elmgreen & Dragset’s design for their commission was an equally brilliant solution that builds upon the vision of SOM and gives commuters/passengers a visual delight upon arrival at Penn Station. Biggest challenge, how do we get those traveling through to Look Up? How do two contemporary German artists get business commuters and tourists to pay attention to their surroundings when they are so focused on cell phone screens?
Do you think the Elmgreen & Dragset Hive hanging sculpture will draw attention from the general public moving through the Moynihan Train Hall of Penn Station? Or do you suspect Salvador Dali’s statement listed above will prevail?
Elmgreen & Dragset, Hive detail, 2020