This spring, artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset will transform the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center with a largescale new work.
Van Gogh’s Ear is a sculpture, which takes the form of a swimming pool sitting upright. Its cyan blue interior, adorned with a polished stainless steel ladder, bright lights, and a diving board, opens up to the public traveling down Fifth Avenue, across from Saks Fifth Avenue.
Conceived specifically for this site, where fashion, commerce, tourism, business, and art collide, the work playfully contradicts our expectations of both this familiar object and iconic site. Elmgreen & Dragset: Van Gogh’s Ear will be free to the public and on view April 13 through June 3, 2016. The exhibition is organized by Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer. Following its presentation at Rockefeller Center, the K11 Art Foundation will travel Van Gogh’s Ear to China. Displayed as if in a high-end retail showroom, the work continues the idea of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, which debuted a century ago and featured ordinary objects elevated to the level of high art by the choice of the artist. In contrast with these works, which were often only slightly modified, Elmgreen & Dragset have carefully designed and crafted each detail of Van Gogh’s Ear to mimic a garden pool. Re-positioned in a pedestrian plaza surrounded by the busy life of tourists, skyscrapers, and businesses, the pool stands out as a surreal object uprooted from its usual environment.
The sculptural elements of the pool itself—from the curves created by the different depths and its overall shape, to the protruding diving board—become apparent when it is singularly presented vertically and above ground.
- Elmgreen & Dragset, rendering of Van Gogh's Ear, 2016 Photo courtesy of the Public Art Fund.