David Anfam talks site-specific art in USA Today

Our venerable editor-at-large selects his favourite site-specific artworks, each worthy of a road trip
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Dr David Anfam addressing guests at Sotheby's in London, 2012
Dr David Anfam addressing guests at Sotheby's in London, 2012

We always suspected someone might use Art & Place, our new book on Site-Specific Art in the Americas, as a kind of travel guide. After all, the Spiral Jetty isn't going to come to you.

So, we were pleased to see USA Today feature the book in its travel section. What's more, the paper asked Phaidon's commissioning editor-at-large, Dr David Anfam, to highlight his favourite inclusions.

"Many impressive and fascinating artworks stand right in front of our eyes - if only we knew where to look," Anfam told the paper. "Slip away for an hour while on a business trip or plan an entire trip - either way, these art treasures are not to be missed."

The 53-foot Roy Lichtenstein mural in Times Square subway station; the Dia:Beacon gallery, 60 miles north of Manhattan in New York State; and Washington DC's Vietnam Veterans Memorial are Anfam's pick on the East Coast.

 

Maya Linn's Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Maya Linn's Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Of these, the Lichtenstein porcelain, enamel and steel mural is the most accessible. Mounted above head height in the Times Square-42nd Street Subway Complex, this 1994 work is a comic, futuristic take on The City That Never Sleeps. The Dia:Beacon, meanwhile, an hour or so's drive from the city, contains a series of Richard Serra's massive Cor-Ten steel sculptures, as well as Michael Heizer's North, South, East, West (2002), four steel-lined holes in the gallery floor, a former Nabisco factory, beside the Hudson river. A war memorial might sound like an choice for an art trip, yet Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Mural, a simply excavated v-shaped wedge of earth, lined with 140 polished basalt panels inscribed with the names of war's dead, has the simplicity and solemnity of a great minimalist work.

 

The Watts Towers by Simon Rodia
The Watts Towers by Simon Rodia

In California, Dr David Anfam highlights LA's Watts Towers, the Pacific View Mall in Ventura and the Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum. Of these a mall might sound like an odd choice, yet it's the site of Dennis Oppenheim's loopy outdoor sculpture, Bus Home (2002). Watts Towers also features in our Wild Art book, as an untrained, Italian logger and construction hand, Simon Rodia, built this peculiar collection of dreamy spires over a 33-year period from 1921 to 1954. Despite its more formal name, the Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum, in San Bernardino County, California, has much in common with Watts Towers; the 3-hectare site is filled with scavenged sculptures made by one man, Noah Purifoy, who was also a Watts Towers Arts Center co-founder, which helped preserve Rodia's creation.

 

Dennis Oppenheim's Bus Home
Dennis Oppenheim's Bus Home

Midwesterners should, in Dr Anfam's opinion, make for Chicago's Millennium Park and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is home to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's playful Spoonbridge and Cherry. If you go during the winter months, try to pick a snowy day when, as Oldenburg put it "the snow brings back the ice cream sundae origin of the cherry."

Clear weather, conversely, suits Cloud Gate, the Anish Kapoor's 110-ton, stainless steel sculpture, which dominates the western edge of Chicago's Millennium Park. Its highly polished surface catches the drama of the city's skyline perfectly.

 

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's playful Spoonbridge and Cherry
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's playful Spoonbridge and Cherry

Finally, in the South West, Anfam recommends Chupinas Mesa, in New Mexico's desert, about an eleven-and-a-half-hour drive southeast of Santa Fe. A naked-eye observatory, built by the artist and mathematician Charles Ross, it is, as we put it in the book, "a poetic reimagining of celandrical Neolithic monument sat sites such as Stonehenge."

Read the full piece here, have our editor, Rosie Pickles, introduce the title to you, or buy the book, from the people who made it, here.


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