Rockefeller Center's newest public art attraction received a rainswept welcome Tuesday. Van Gogh's Ear, a 4.5 ton swimming pool sculpture turned on its side, was formally unveiled this morning. Sponsored by the Public Art Fund and designed and built by Scandinavian artist team Elmgreen & Dragset, the pool—complete with diving board, lights, and step ladder—sits turned on its side at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Plaza.
Elmgreen & Dragset are perhaps best known for placing a fully-constructed Prada storefront in the middle of nowhere, on a road 26 miles outside of Marfa, Texas. And in effect, the sheeny, "1950's California" pool is the deserted store's complement. "We often like to work in environments where we use a sort of displacement," Michael Elmgreen said. "If you put a Prada store in the desert it's something that is not belonging to the desert. A swimming pool is something that is certainly not belonging to Rockefeller plaza because it's busy, business-like and a more East Coast atmosphere."
"We're very interested in public space and we've always kept it as part of our practice," Ingar Dragset added. "That's a place where the art meets many people who don't seek the art experience. You can make more of a surprising encounter and it's more challenging, as well, for artists."
The swimming pool required six months of labor to create, and has an intentional duality in its design. From Fifth Avenue, the piece is unmistakably a swimming pool, but viewed from behind it stands as an off-white, abstract installation. "For us, it was important to make a sculpture that would work from both sides," Elmgreen said.
Installed in collaboration with Rockefeller Center owners Tishman Speyer and the Public Art Fund, the piece will be on display until June 3rd and, despite Tuesday's rain, was already stopping dozens of tourists and local commuters in their tracks. Get ready to see photos of this whimsical and weird piece all over your social media feeds.