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Franz West sculptures at Lincoln Center

Franz West at Lincoln Center, July 7, 2004

Franz West

Why West Is the Best
by Charlie Finch

As we cruised across Central Park towards Lincoln Center for the Public Art Funds opening party honoring Franz West, 30 New York Police Department cars formed a line in front of our taxi, sirens blaring and red lights blazing -- eventually we all pulled up at Avery Fisher Hall and the cops jumped out to mingle in the plaza crowd.

This was what is called a swarm, cops practicing a swift convergence on terrorists, Republicans and all those in between, the perfect welcome for the celebrated Austrian action artist, Franz West.

West, who resembles Czech patriot Vaclav Havel, has recently specialized in something we New Yorkers desperately require: turning sculpture into a comfort zone, in the words of Robert Lowell, Lord Wearys castle.

Seven years ago the Franzer installed sofa sculptures on the roof of the Dia Foundation in Chelsea -- what a party that was, as we clinked drinks with Carolee Schneemann and Mike Bidlo, lounging like gadabouts on Westys recliners. Better than banging your honey on a Brancusi, almost.

Now Franz West has installed a line of intestinally shaped, Pez-colored aluminum tubes across the Lincoln Center entrance -- the effect resembles a colonoscopy by Dr. Seuss.

They are perfect for the raffish, worn yet relaxed place that this plaza has become, reverting to the tenement neighborhood Lincoln Center replaced 50 years ago. Little Italian ice carts, a swing dance promenade, small bars serving drinks and the spotted slabs of Fishers faade give this regal dump the flavor of a bodega palace, ideal for the Franz philosophy -- nothing is pristine, so everybody, wear it down!

Several urchins successfully shimmied up and across Westies tubes, as their adoring mothers took snapshots.

This prompted us to ask the Public Art Funds Tom Eccles about liability.

Its all ours, of course, replied the perspicacious Scot.

Upstairs, Lincoln Center grandees sipped Sea Breezes with the likes of Betsy Baker and Robin Cembalest. We looked across the plaza for the funhouse mirrors and the tunnel of love, and suddenly an uptight summer in New York City eased for a moment.

Go ride the sculptures.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).