As Pamela Council prepared to pray, she established a deadline. Over seven months after the artist’s memorial to survivors of Covid-19 originally emerged in Times Square, visitors might contemplate on how they had persevered during the epidemic in the carapace of 400,000 hand-painted acrylic nails.
Even though Times Square Arts had commissioned the artist to create an installation for their holiday show, when the work was transported to a Brooklyn storage facility, Council was astonished to receive a $5,000 monthly charge and insurance bill, which would soon deplete the artist’s funds. New York City’s Times Square Arts was prepared to cover the first five months of storage, but only if it was agreed upon by City Council to cover the rest of the storage costs.
“A Fountain for Survivors” had no gallery representation, so the artist thought crowdfunding was the best way to earn $26,000 to keep the 20,000-pound sculpture in storage until a permanent home could be found.
Historically, Black and queer artists have had their work destroyed, according to Council, who identifies as both Black and nonbinary in an interview. “I dread the thought of my work ending up like that.”
In a city like New York, where space on the sidewalk is at a premium, costly materials are required, and competition for a commission is tough, a public art commission is one of the greatest accolades an artist can get. Most of the city’s most prominent commissions are awarded by non-profit organisations, which often award known artists, who have galleries ready to cover production expenses and assure a lucrative afterlife for the sculptures, to the NGOs. There are a few exceptions, such as Zaq Landsberg, a self-taught artist who chose to demolish his own work because he couldn’t afford to preserve it.
To keep his display “Islands of the Unisphere” anchored to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park grounds, he dug up the anchors in 2019. Table-sized sculptures based on the park’s renowned globe were part of the display. In the past, tourists have fashioned temporary chairs and tables out of his sculptures, which depicted the form of countries like Japan, Cuba, and Madagascar in outline. They had been commissioned by the Parks Department as part of its public art initiative, which provides cultural experiences for New Yorkers all around the city.
As Landsberg put it, “most of the islands ended up in the rubbish.” He went on to say that he had converted Cuba into a plant stand for his apartment’s balcony. Even though I’m trying to maintain a Zen attitude, “every time I have to kill anything, it hurts.”
Now, the artist is scrambling to rescue everything he can. As a way to save money on storage, Landsberg is presently hiding an effigy of Margaret Corbin he made last year in the basement of his Brooklyn studio. While it has been on display at Fort Tryon Park for over a year, the sarcophagus’s final resting place may now be the artist’s work table.
His “Reclining Liberty” sculpture, which depicts Lady Liberty reclining in New York Harbor after stepping down from her pedestal, was the subject of a Kickstarter campaign that he launched in May in an effort to raise funds for its transfer. Following an exhibition at Harlem’s Morningside Park for a year, the artwork now had to cross the Hudson to Jersey City’s Liberty State Park, where Landsberg had planned an even longer show. To pay for the rigging business, two boom trucks, and upkeep on the sculpture after it reached at its new position, the hourlong journey cost $11,000.
Megan Moriarty, a Parks Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that “our staff work closely with artists and can provide recommendations for other organisations, locations and agencies that they might work with beyond the exhibition term.” “Artists are responsible for the artwork before and after display.”
“Delirious Matter,” Diana Al-2018 Hadid’s Madison Square Park Conservancy installation, was given a tour by Diana Al-Hadid. For the following two years, the artwork was transported to Williamstown, Massachusetts, and then to Nashville, Tennessee, thanks to the conservation and her dealer, Kasmin Gallery. It had life right away, and that’s when an artist can sell their work afterwards, according to Al-Hadid in an interview.
Public art, according to the nonprofit’s director, Jean Cooney, is a reflection of the skewed structure of the art world’s economy. We need to maintain working with new artists and creating connections with groups that can manage the things we can’t,” she added. “The system is primed to promote inequity.”