ANTI-BRITISH MEMORIAL IN BATTERY PARK CITY?
Manhattan's most amazing new public artwork was dedicated in lower Manhattan with a day-long ceremony on July 16, 2002 -- and seems to have an unspoken anti-British subtext. The Irish Hunger Memorial, designed by artist Brian Tolle, is fashioned to resemble a quarter-acre plot of fallow Irish farmland, "a beautiful piece of Mayo," in the words of the visiting president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, dotted with Irish wildflowers (but no crops) and native stone walls (with one stone from each Irish county), cantilevered up on a cast-concrete platform that overlooks New York Harbor, set at the north end of Battery Park City only a few blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center.
The ribbon-cutting event was largely an Irish-American affair, with Irish flags, anthems and songs, an invocation given by Edward Cardinal Egan, followed by speeches by New York City mayors Michael R. Bloomberg and Rudolph W. Giuliani and New York state governor George E. Pataki, who claims Irish descent on his mother's side. Reading excerpts from the wall of remembrance were Malachy and Frank McCourt and Bob Geldof.
The unusual tilted garden, called "earthwork as Pop Art" by New York Times critic Roberta Smith, is designed to memorialize the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-52 and encourage efforts to address hunger in the world today. Mostly unmentioned at the ceremony is the continuing importance of the "Great Starvation" to Irish Republican politics, though Malachy McCourt did go a bit off-message with extemporaneous remarks to the effect that the famine was due to "conservative politics, a kind of brain damage peculiar to the British." Governor Pataki, who is running for his second term, proudly reminded his listeners that in 1996 the state changed its high-school history textbooks to reflect British responsibility for the famine. Public funds paid the entire $5 million cost of the monument.
THREE KINDS OF SHELTER IN MADISON PARK
Manhattan's Madison Square Park, located at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, is home to three new public artworks this summer, courtesy the Public Art Fund and a $1-million grant from Target Stores. The "Target Art in the Park" program, in its third and final year, presents a trio of temporary structures: Bisected Triangle, Interior Curve by Dan Graham, a two-room, walk-in pavilion of two-way reflective glass; Urban Wildlife Observation Unit by Mark Dion, an "urban ecological center" that gives a closer look at native animals, bugs and trees in the park; and Voyager by the Scottish artist duo Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion, a set of three two-person expedition tents made of cast aluminum. The installation is on view through Oct. 31, 2002.
CONSUMING PLACES FROM CREATIVE TIME
One highlight of the summer art season in New York City has been the Art in the Anchorage programs put on inside the massive brick foundation of the Brooklyn Bridge by Creative Time -- a program that would have been in its 19th year this summer, except that the anchorage was shut down by the city after 9/11 due to security concerns. Now, Creative Time has relocated its summer exhibition to three nearby spaces, all 19th-century structures near the waterfront at the entrance of the newly renovated Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park -- the Tobacco Warehouse, Empire Stores and the Stable at 16 Main Street. Titled "Consuming Places," the exhibition "spans virtual, physical and social realms and connects our City's historic character with ephemeral technologies." Participants are Asymptote, Bill Fontana, Greyworld, Marjetica Potrc and 212box; the show goes on next month, Aug. 15-Oct. 27, 2002.
WALL STREET RISING
As part of New York City's effort to bring life back to downtown Manhattan, a new organization called Wall Street Rising has organized exhibitions in five Wall Street skyscrapers of some 100 contemporary art works. Overseen by former Whitney Museum curator Richard D. Marshall, the works on view range from photographs by Louise Lawler and Laurie Simmons to paintings by Eric Fischl and Peter Halley. The shows: "New York Painting & Sculpture" at 48 Wall Street; "New Photography" at 25 Broad Street, "Sculpture Installation" at 60 Wall Street; "Children's Art" at 45 Wall Street and "Monumental Paintings" at One New York Plaza. For more info, check out www.wallstreetrising.org.