Sunday, January 14, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever, excerpt sixteen)

from The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever by Prudence Peiffer:

The 1964 World’s Fair was the brainchild of Robert Moses, who had been working to plan the event as president of the World’s Fair Corporation since May 1960. He tapped Philip Johnson, the architect and onetime MoMA curator, to design the New York State Pavilion; part of this complex included the round Theaterama building. Back in December 1962, the same month that President Kennedy came to New York to attend the official groundbreaking ceremony for the fair’s construction, Johnson commissioned ten artists to make work for its curving exterior walls. Slip artists—including Indiana, Kelly, and Rosenquist—made up almost a third of the young, white, mostly gay male artists chosen to represent the current art scene in New York.

Each was given a few thousand dollars to develop art no bigger than twenty by twenty feet to be attached to the building’s curved exterior like barnacles or—perhaps more aptly—like billboards. (One artist commented that the works would be like a “charm bracelet” around the building.) Abstract Expressionism was no longer anywhere in sight—less than a decade after it had played such a key role in Cold War cultural outreach. Everything at the fair was about spectacle and automation, even the High Renaissance: Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta was flown in and on view at the Vatican’s pavilion, where a conveyor belt whisked viewers past the sculpture, which stood behind bulletproof plastic, flanked by velvet drapery and flickering electric lights.

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