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Two Public-Art Proposals for the Upper East Side

By Susana Pereyra • Mar 26th, 2012 • Category: Lead Story, News

The Parks Committee of Manhattan’s Community Board 8, which represents the Upper East Side, met earlier this month to discuss proposals for two art exhibitions along Park Avenue, as well as to brainstorm ideas for the development of more park land and open space in the neighborhood.

The exhibition proposals were introduced by Jennifer Lantzas, public art coordinator for the New York City Parks Department, which works with other organizations to decide which art pieces will be displayed in parks and for how long.

The first proposal would include 13 sculptures, to be displayed between 51st street and 67th street from July, 2013 through November of the same year. The artist, Albert Paley, was present during the meeting and came prepared with pictures, drawings, and even miniature models of the sculptures to present to the board. Paley, originally from Rochester, NY, describes his sculptures as being “site-specific.” In other words, everything from the size, color, texture, and overall attitude of the sculptures is dependent on the setting.

For example, one of the sculptures to be placed on 54th and Park Avenue was described by Paley as being “tall and light, like smoke,” in contrast to the compressed aesthetic of the area’s architecture.

“New York is dynamic and complex, the sculptures pick on up on this,” explained Paley. “It’s like frozen motion; after all, the sculptures are not kinetic, yet, they look as if they are moving. It’s fake motion, which highlights the real motion.”

The second proposal, which would have more immediate results, is an exhibition of 11 sculptures along Park Avenue between July and November 2012. The artist is the late Niki de Saint Phalle. Unlike Paley’s large, abstract, heavy steel sculptures, Saint Phalle’s sculptures are colorful mosaics, which depict anything from the whimsical (floating dolphins) to the contemporary (athletes and musicians).

“Overall, I believe it is a well-rounded exhibition of her work,” said Lantzas.

The two proposals were originally set as motions individually and then approved, pending MTA approval, particularly in regards to Paley’s sculptures, which weigh in the tons, that would be placed just feet from where subway lines pass underneath.

Many members of the Parks Committee were not present for the meeting, however, because they could not reach the Blood Center, where it was held. On that day, President Obama was in New York, and barricades prevented many people from passing easily through the Upper East Side. Fewer than 10 members met in the large auditorium, a space that clearly suggested it would be a larger meeting.

“I just don’t want any problems with numbers,” said Paley.

The small turnout could potentially lead others to question the legitimacy of the committee’s decision, but those in attendance are confident both proposals will pass.

“This is a two-part process,” said Margaret Price, a Parks Committee co-chair. “We have both co-chairs present and agreeing; we should have no problem presenting [these proposals] to the board later this month.”

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