The Rockefeller Center’s newest public art attraction was lashed down on Tuesday. Van Gogh’s Ear, a 4.5 ton swimming pool sculpture that was turned on its side, was officially unveiled this morning. The pool, sponsored by the Public Art Fund and designed and built by the Scandinavian artist team Elmgreen & Dragset, with a diving board, lights and stepladder is located on the side at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Plaza.
Elmgreen & Dragset are perhaps best known for placing a full-fledged Prada storefront in the middle of nowhere on a street 26 miles outside of Marfa, Texas. Indeed, the shiny “California’s 1950” pool is the addition to the abandoned shop. “We often like to work in environments where we use some kind of shift,” said Michael Elmgreen. “If you put a Prada store in the desert, it doesn’t belong to the desert. A swimming pool certainly doesn’t belong to Rockefeller Square because it’s busy, business-like, and located on the east coast.”
“We are very interested in public space and have always kept it as part of our practice,” added Ingar Dragset. “This is a place where art meets a lot of people who are not looking for art experience. You can have a surprising encounter and it is also a greater challenge for artists.”
The creation of the swimming pool took six months of work and has an intentional duality in its design. From Fifth Avenue the piece is unmistakably a swimming pool, but when viewed from the rear it is a cream-colored, abstract installation. “It was important for us to create a sculpture that works from both sides,” said Elmgreen.
The piece, installed in collaboration with the owners of the Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, and the Public Art Fund, will be on display until June 3rd and has already stopped dozens of tourists and commuters on their tracks despite the rain on Tuesday. Get ready to see photos of this quirky and weird piece on your social media feeds.