Electric Fountain runs dry


Electric Fountain by Tim Noble & Sue Webster.  Images courtesy of MadSilence.

It’s big, it’s blue, and now it’s gone.  Electric Fountain was dismantled and removed yesterday, and it lived up to the hype concerning much of contemporary art.  It was gaudy, kitschy, transitory, and ultimately disappointing.

If you get the impression that I wasn’t impressed with the Fountain, you’re right.  As an aesthetic object, it was massive and bulky, gaudy and bright, more mundane than transcendent.  And compared to the perpetual light show that is Manhattan, the Fountain paled in comparison.  As with so much modern conceptual art, the artists’ message was not apparent.  I snagged a glossy black brochure as it blew by in the breeze.  A nearby wooden box contained several dozen copies for a Rockefeller Center crowd numbered in the thousands on a slow day.

The Fountain, a 61,000 pound contraption constructed of steel, neon tubing and 3,390 LED bulbs, was created by British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster.  The project joined on February 27th the continuing series of temporary public art installations housed at Rockefeller Center.

According to Noble and Webster, the Fountain is:

“A monument for the 21st century…a celebration of the spectacle, excess, beauty, and desire of contemporary culture and a provocative comment on the nature of consumer society…  Electric Fountain mimics the tradition of a fountain as a monument found in public squares around the world, but its magic lies in the emulation of light where water should be.” 

A project of the Art Production Fund, the $1 million cost of the project was underwritten by Lexus, the car manufacturer, and Jeffrey Deitch, Noble and Webster’s New York dealer.  The average daily cost of the project during its five-and-a-half weeks tenure: $26,000.  

The object was fabricated over a year’s time by a team of experts from Aachen, Germany, from a rough sketch provided by Noble and Webster.  Construction was overseen by a team from the Art Production Fund and a production team from Tishman Speyer Properties, an owner of Rockefeller Center.

Go here for the Electric Fountain slideshow from The New York Times. 

What’s next for Rockefeller Center?  Now that Electric Fountain has run dry, a skyscraper made with more than one million toy construction pieces will soar 65 feet over the entrance to Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens from May 28 through July 13.  The skyscraper, created by the Los Angeles artist Chris Burden and titled “What My Dad Gave Me,” will weigh about 70 tons. Each piece is a steel replica of a part from an Erector set, the popular building toy.

Coming this summer to NYC via the Art Production Fund: The New York City Waterfalls by Olafur Eliasson. 




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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Monica
    Apr 07, 2008 @ 09:22:52

    I missed it!!!!


  2. jafabrit
    Apr 07, 2008 @ 21:14:07

    I sort of like it, but wow 26,000 a day fits in with the theme of excess and consumption. Mind one look at Vegas makes this fountain a wee trifle when it comes to daily costs.

    Perhaps I am so starved for public art madsilence that I just about go goo goo ga ga when I see “anything”. Bit like watching horrid british soaps just so I can hear british, you know what I mean.


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