Josephine Meckseper’s ‘Manhattan Oil Project’

Josephine Meckseper’s faux wildcatting project in East Midtown is almost complete. The 25-foot-tall pump jack sculptures, sponsored by the Art Production Fund, are scheduled to roar into motion on Monday at the corner of 46th Street and 8th Avenue, giving the illusion that oil is being pumped from underneath Manhattan.

Yesterday morning, the pieces appeared to be nearly fully assembled. An elderly gentleman yelled to the two construction workers who were putting on some final touches, “Are they pumping real shit out of the ground?” After being informed that he was looking at artworks, he mumbled something about the high price of gas. He pulled a camera out of his pocket and snapped a picture through the chain-link fence that surrounds the installation.

Judging the still-unfinished project, it looks a very rare thing: a successful public artwork. It’s ideally scaled to its surroundings–a perfectly absurd sight in the middle of the area’s soaring skyscrapers–and like Duchamp’s Rotary Demisphere (or the bachelors of his Large Glass) it’s going to churn away, through May 6, never managing to accomplish any real work.


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