The morning was overcast, warm and humid. I walked down to Central Park where I wanted to look at an installation by Liz Glynn. The descriptions I read presented it as a cerebral piece of art: recreating a gilded-age private ballroom in the open. There are opposites paired up here, the opulence of the Whitney Ballroom in the large public space it once stood next to, Louis XIV chairs reproduced in cast concrete. All this is meant to be appreciated as a comment on the rising inequalities in today’s world.
I wanted to see how it worked. Reproductions of the elegant window frames of the ballroom look like doors in the square. As you approach the installation, they seem to frame a stage set. People were sitting on the chairs when I arrived. I waited for a moment when they were free so that I could take a photo. There were nice patterns on the chairs, and I wondered how Glynn had created those. It turns out that she had copied the patterns of historic damask cloth, 3D printed them, and then converted it to a mold.
The concrete blocks are copies of copies. Stanford White, the architect of the now vanished Whitney Ballroom, bought a few Louis XIV chairs, and had local artisans copy them for the financier William Whitney. Glynn said in an interview that she chose the medium of cast concrete since it was used by Le Corbusier to build mass housing.
Do we have to know all this to appreciate the work? Can it not stand by itself near the south-eastern entrance to Central Park? A lot of public art in New York manages to stand on its own, irrespective of the artist’s intentions. Is Liz Glynn’s Open House one of those? Perhaps the fact that the exhibition is temporary will prevent it from taking on its own identity in the minds of people.