THE NYT hit on what could perhaps be an emerging art form: a “nip tuck” for the public eyesore. It could be a new show on Bravo: Project Art Intervention.
One kind of public sculpture practiced by people who want to change the world is the “intervention,” in which the artist subtly alters some existing structure to subvert perceived social complacency. At City Hall Park, under the auspices of the Public Art Fund, the British sculptor Richard Woods has intervened by cladding two octagonal guard booths in panels imprinted with red-on-white brick patterns, giving them the look of cheap amusement-park pavilions. Also, in an indoor lobby, he has covered an elaborately molded door with a flat, printed copy of the door.
It sounds like the emphasis is on performing a “cheeky” makeover, and people love cheeky, which means that polka-dotted fire hydrants could be popping up in your neighborhood by breakfast. But not so fast. Someone ran rampant with the idea of “cheeky” when they removed Damien Hirst’s colossal bronze sculpture of a partly dissected pregnant woman (!) from the outdoor Lever House plaza and replaced it with a giant, white Hello Kitty figure (double up !!) by Tom Sachs. I’m not sure if this intervention really improved the public space or made it that much more of an eyesore.
Perhaps to be successful, the concept of art intervention should just leave “cheeky” out. On second thought, no, I think we could use a little humor interspersed in the madness that is life.