The Trust for Governors Island's Art CommisionsGI Program

Governors Island Corporation, d.b.a. The Trust for Governors Island (The Trust)

Funding Received: 2013
New York, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
September 10, 2014

By Meagan O’Neil

The most significant update with regard to The Trust for Governors Island’s ArtPlace award is the addition of Rachel Whiteread’s piece to Art CommissionsGI. This June, Rachel formally began work on her site-specific sculpture for Governors Island. Whiteread is creating her piece in parallel with the construction of the Hills and is working closely with The Trust’s landscape architect, Adriaan Geuze, and Consulting Curator, Tom Eccles, to ensure the finalized site will structurally support Whiteread’s piece and that the landscape’s design will ensure appropriate sightlines.

Lastly, this season, for the first time, Governors Island is open seven days a week, tripling the public access season from 40 to 120 days. This increased access has enabled tens of thousands of additional New Yorkers to visit the Island and explore the new 30 acre park and view five site-specific art installations from Art CommissionsGI.

Certainly, the most important task or challenge The Trust has handled over the past six months with regard to Art CommissionsGI has been to introduce and define the program so the public understands how it is distinct from all the other public art programs in NYC. The Trust has met this challenge by defining the public art program through the lens of the Island’s unique history, landscapes, and Harbor views, reinforcing the idea that Governors Island is unlike any other public space in NYC today. And, the site-specific, works of art reflect the Island’s past as well as signaling the Island’s future as a destination unlike any other in NYC.

Another unforeseen challenge The Trust encountered recently involved technical difficulty with the sound equipment from the Susan Philipsz sound installation. As luck would have it, the day the malfunction was discovered was the same day a reporter from The New York Times was on the Island to write a review of the Handforth and Philipsz pieces in Art CommissionsGI. Philipsz’ piece, Day is Done, is only scheduled to play once a day from 5-6PM. If the piece played on an intermittent loop throughout the day Trust staff would have discovered the problem before the reporter’s visit. This challenge has taught The Trust to monitor more closely the equipment from this installation and any future installation involving sound.

Recent Wins
Two recent “wins” include another positive review in The New York Times for Handforth’s exhibition “Sidewalk Island” and Philipsz’ sound installation “Day is Done” as well as the quarterly magazine Public Art Review covering Art CommissionsGI in their spring 2014 issue with a very favorable 3-page article and accompanying 5-minute video interview of Trust president Leslie Koch. Additionally, on July 25 the FOX5 New York morning program featured an interview with Leslie from the Island and a segment showcasing our new park, distinctive views, diverse programming and activities, and public art.
Link to Public Art Review article and video of interview

Over the course of the 2014 season, The Trust has been pleased to observe the different ways in which visitors interact with the various Handforth installations. Handforth’s pieces range greatly in size and scale. With the larger pieces, visitors have a more traditional relationship with them, stopping to view the pieces or take their picture in front of them. With a piece as small and familiar looking as “Weeping Hydrant,” visitors will investigate and examine it to determine if it is real or if it is a piece of art. They could walk by it unnoticed or have their curiosity piqued when they see it later from a different vantage point. This unexpected surprise informed The Trust staff of the value of having an artist commission comprise more than one piece and having that exhibition consist of artwork in varying scales and sizes. The variance in scale and size elicits varying degrees of physical and intellectual interaction.