Elevators Commissioned from Artschwager for the Whitney's Future Downtown Home

Art Press Release from United States. Published by anonymous on Friday 07 June 2013.

Elevators Commissioned from Artschwager for the Whitney's Future Downtown Home image

When the Whitney Museum of American Art opens its downtown home to the public in 2015, one of the most striking features of the new building will be its four distinctive elevators.

Bringing visitors into contact with art as soon as they enter the Museum, the four elevator interiors comprise an artwork designed by the late Richard Artschwager (1923–2013)—the only commissioned work of art in the Whitney’s new Renzo Piano-designed building, which is currently under construction in downtown Manhattan at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets.

Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, noted: “Similar to the way in which Calder’s Circus was for many years a touchstone for our visitors in the Whitney’s uptown lobby, we hope that the Artschwager elevators will become a uniquely memorable and unexpected part of the experience of coming to the Whitney. They will be a reminder of the centrality of our relationships with artists and in particular of our longstanding history with Richard Artschwager, who died earlier this year, shortly after completing the design for this final installation. These elevators are a way of putting the art first and foremost and an invitation to the visitor to experience art even before ascending to the special exhibition and permanent collection galleries.”

Six in Four, the title Artschwager gave to the Whitney elevators, is the last major artwork he created before his death. Employing materials such as plastic laminate, glass, and etched stainless steel, the four elevators are the culmination of a body of work based on six themes that occupied Artschwager’s imagination since the mid-1970s: door, window, table, basket, mirror, and rug. These themes became the subject of hundreds of drawings and numerous sculptures the artist made throughout his career. Each elevator is designed as an immersive installation featuring one or more of these themes; visitors entering an elevator will have the extraordinary and somewhat disorienting experience of standing under a table; being on a rug in front of a mirror; finding oneself opposite an unexpected door and next to a window; or contained in a giant floating woven basket.

Throughout the day the four elevators will be used by the Museum’s visitors; the largest, nearly fifteen-feet wide, will also be used to transport art. After Museum hours, all four elevators will be “parked” in the lobby, doors open and lit from within—presenting the entire installation each night in full view of anyone passing by the glass-enclosed ground floor of the Whitney Museum.

Richard Artschwager was commissioned for this project not only because he was a major figure in twentieth-century American art, but also because of his history with the Whitney. In 1966, nearly five decades ago, the Whitney included Artschwager’s work in Contemporary American Sculpture: Selection I and in the 1966 Annual Exhibition. That same year, the Whitney acquired its first Artschwager sculpture, Description of a Table, and today it has the largest holdings of his art of any museum. The Whitney demonstrated its commitment to Artschwager’s art by organizing two comprehensive surveys of his work—the first in 1988, and another that opened in October 2012 and ended in early February 2013, just a few days before the artist died.

The commission takes a cue from Janus III (elevator), the first large-scale interactive sculptural installation Artschwager created, in 1981. It is a non-functioning chrome and Formica elevator cab with its own interior lighting. The viewer can enter and press buttons that activate a chorus of sound and recreate the feeling of ascending and descending. Janus III is in the collection of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and was exhibited in the Whitney’s 1988 retrospective. Artschwager also previously worked on architectural commissions including the design of the façades of Georg Kargl BOX in Vienna and the David Nolan Gallery in New York.