Each year for the past 17 years, “Between the Bridges,” an outdoor sculpture exhibition, has been held in the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn, a tiny little piece of windswept real estate between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges overlooking New York Harbor and lower Manhattan. Lorraine Walsh and Christopher Drago, curators for this year’s installment, a show titled Intervistas , told The Observer that they are afraid that this year is the swan song for the program.
The curators are basing their observation on a series of events that took place before the show opened on July 31. “No one has come out and said anything to us, and in fact everyone involved has been very nice, but a number of strange things have occurred,” Mr. Drago said.
Three days before the 15-sculpture show was to open, park workers roped off a significant area the curators had intended to use and planted grass seed. Deciding to have some fun with their misfortune, the curators turned the roped-off area into its own art piece. They erected a plaque that identified the adopted artwork as Untitled and assigned its authorship to N.Y.S.O.P.R.H.P.–shorthand for New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, one of the show’s sponsors. “There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve the park,” Mr. Drago told The Observer , “but I think it is suspicious that the state decided to reseed the area in the middle of a drought at the end of the summer the week that the sculpture show was to open.”
Frank Spano, a park employee, told The Observer that the ground had to be reseeded. Asked why it was reseeded at this time of year, he said he didn’t know, he was “just fulfilling orders from above.”
Next, a truck that had been sent into the park by the state to clean out the Portosan on the site, ran over one of the sculptures. Mr. Drago said that he has learned that the truck was driven by an independent contractor who did not know that the circle of bricks in David Limoli’s untitled sculpture was art. But he, Ms. Walsh and many of the other artists in the show take it as further evidence that they are no longer wanted in the park.
Their suspicion stems from the fact that last December, David Walentas, a developer who owns a great deal of the historic property adjacent to the park, received a contract from the state to develop the parkland. The agreement was sent to former State Attorney General Dennis Vacco in time for him to sign off on it before he left office Dec. 31.
Mr. Walentas has made plans to build a marina in a cove next to where the park is currently located. He also hopes to build a supermodern luxury hotel, to be designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, jutting out over the East River under the Manhattan Bridge. The area next to the park, which is known as Dumbo, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, has long been settled by artists who have lofts in the area. Mr. Walentas has been generous in the past to some of the artist’s groups. But Mr. Drago said that there is some concern among the artists that they will be evicted by Mr. Walentas, who wants to turn the area into a high-end shopping and tourism area.
Paul Parkhill, one of the artists in the exhibition, which was partially sponsored by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, headed a collaborative effort that turned the evolving history of the site into a memory piece. The team placed historic photographs and references to the evolution of the site in little black boxes, arranged in groups of three. In one of the boxes they included a quote from Mr. Nouvel, the potential architect for the site’s redevelopment. “In fairy tales,” Mr. Nouvel wrote, “the wicked witch keeps the princess from seeing herself in a mirror, which is the only way she can discover her real beauty. Admiring one’s image, being confident of one’s looks was such a pleasure that it was equated with sin. What we have here is a golden opportunity to reach out a Narcissus mirror to Manhattan: Look at yourself, and love it!”
On a recent day, standing on the park’s waterfront boardwalk, overlooking the magnificent view of lower Manhattan that Mr. Nouvel was referring to, Ms. Walsh and Mr. Drago said they believe Mr. Walentas has benefited from the artists’ settling in the area, but will eventually be kicking them out when he entices richer people to move into the neighborhood through his grand plans.
Both curators are Brooklynites and sentimental about their local parkland, but neither Ms. Walsh or Mr. Drago seem to believe they can do anything to stop Mr. Walentas. Ms. Walsh even had a fatalistic little art piece in the show: a cage of butterflies she had netted in the park. Since butterflies only have a life span of a couple of days, her art piece was over shortly after the show was begun–a bittersweet note that she sees as a metaphor for the site.
Louise Bourgeois Joins Cheim & Read
After more than a year of rumors that Louise Bourgeois was going to leave Robert Miller Gallery and join Cheim & Read, John Cheim announced in July that it is official: The 87-year-old artist will be formally represented by the two-year-old Chelsea gallery from now on.
“Representation means that we will be like an agent for Ms. Bourgeois,” Mr. Cheim told The Observer . “If you have any questions about Bourgeois, you will come to us and we will help you.” The artist will have a solo show in the gallery in spring 2000.
One of the most popular contemporary artists, the French-born Ms. Bourgeois is a feminist confessional artist whose strange vision is often applied with mathematical rigor to sculptures, drawings and assemblages. Although she has been working as an artist since the 1930′s, when she studied in Paris with Fernand Léger, Ms. Bourgeois is one of those artists whose success has come late in life. Her big sales and big commissions did not take place until she began being represented by the Robert Miller Gallery in 1982. Earlier this year, Robert Miller told The Observer that he was upset that Ms. Bourgeois would be leaving the gallery.
Mr. Cheim and Howard Read worked for Mr. Miller until two years ago when they left to set up Cheim & Read. “When John and Howard left Miller, Louise and I tried to work with both Miller Gallery and Cheim & Read,” said Jerry Gorovoy, Ms. Bourgeois’ manager. “But it became impossible for us to work with both situations.” Mr. Gorovoy said he and Ms. Bourgeois decided that since Mr. Cheim knows Ms. Bourgeois’ work best, they would sign on with Cheim & Read.
Ms. Bourgeois, who lives in a narrow town house a couple of blocks from Cheim & Read’s West 23rd Street location, told The Observer in a 1994 interview that community is important to her. Lately, though, the artist has been all over the world. This year, she won the Praemium Imperiale prize for excellence in art from the Japan Art Association. The artist was awarded the Golden Lion, also for outstanding achievement, at this year’s Venice Biennale. A retrospective of her work opens at the Reina Sofia in Madrid in September. She is working on a large commission for an outdoor sculpture garden in downtown Pittsburgh. And an installation of her work is going to inaugurate the Tate Gallery at Bankside, which opens in London in May 2000.
Jerry’s Follows SoHo Tide to Chelsea
“Everybody says why are you leaving SoHo. I say I am not leaving SoHo. It is one of my haunting places. Last year was our best year ever,” said Jerry Joseph, owner of Jerry’s on Prince Street, which has been the unofficial cafeteria to the art world since the early 1980′s. Mr. Joseph is going to open a second restaurant in Chelsea on the southeast corner of 23rd Street and 10th Avenue in October:
The same chef will oversee both locations and in Chelsea there will be delivery service and enclosed sidewalk seating. “I’ve been looking in Chelsea because the art market is where I came from,” Mr. Joseph added. “I was a dealer and a framer before I moved into the restaurant business. It is not only my market, these are my friends.
“I’ve been looking for two or three years in Chelsea. I always had my eyes on this corner space. Then the opportunity opened up and I jumped at it.”