New York Clearing (2020) is a quantum drawing countering the Euclidean geometry of architecture with the sweeping vectors of a line without beginning or end. This is the first time that the work will be installed outdoors, without architectural support. Sited in Pier 3 of Brooklyn Bridge Park, this evocation of energy will be seen against the skyline of Manhattan and converse with the city across the waters of the East River. In the creation of this looping and swooping line the work will respond to the inherent qualities and behavior of the aluminum tubing. Here is structure that in its highs and lows plays with the rhythms of music. New York Clearing will be created in time through the energy of its makers in order to catalyses the positional of its viewers.
BTS' Latest Power Move Is Connecting People Through Major Works of Public Art
Is it a web? A nest? A trap?
According to British sculptor Antony Gormley, the new public art installation at New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3 is all of the above. “New York Clearing,” which opened to the public on Feb. 5 and will remain on display through March 27, is one of five site-specific projects helmed by K-pop supergroup BTS. Technically, it’s part of promotion for the group’s hotly-anticipated upcoming album, Map of the Soul: 7, out later in February. But the art is meant to serve a loftier purpose, too: alongside the installments in other cities — all free and open to the public — it’s intended to bring high-concept contemporary art to the masses, all in service of a message of international connection aptly called “Connect, BTS.”
At Tuesday’s press preview, under a grey sky that matched the steely hue of the twisting structure, artist Gormley, art director Daehyung Lee and Thomas Arnold of Alta Art Production spoke about the power of art to transcend cultural barriers. “Clearing” is not so much a sculpture as a field of “energy,” as Gormley described it: a single looping line of aluminum tubing — 18 kilometers worth, to be exact — spiraling in open-space, larger-than-life scribbles that reach 50 feet high, like a gargantuan metal tumbleweed. Visitors are welcome to walk through, around and under the installation, with the tubes gently undulating under pressure and contact. Gormley called out the tension inherent in the work: “The structure would not be possible were these elements not bound together and then put under stress; it’s the bending that gives it structure, but also gives it freedom.”
“It’s important to me that this is an open work. It doesn’t have a skin,” Gormley notes. “You’re invited to meet others you may not have met before. It’s not a thing that represents something; it’s a process. The actual work begins now, and will happen when the citizens of this incredible city will come to sniff it out and see what is here.” Gormley — who concedes he didn’t know much about BTS before being tapped to participate — is best known for works like his iconic Angel of the North in the U.K., sculptures that ask people to take into account the environment and the humanity in its midst. “We have a nostalgia about identity that’s delusional,” Gormley explains to TIME; he recognizes BTS’ attempts to transcend differences of nationality and cultural background, a mission that his art has often followed as well.
The average fan of BTS, who call themselves ARMY, may not have been familiar with Gormley before now, or with the 21 other artists whose works are now on display in Berlin, London, Buenos Aires and Seoul. That’s the whole point. “The wall between the art scene and society is bigger and higher [than ever],” curator Daehyung Lee tells TIME. “So let’s break down all the silos within the art system.” Lee, who has been traveling to the openings in New York and other cities, including at Berlin’s Gropius Bau and London’s Serpentine Galleries, says managers of those sites are noticing a meaningful shift as BTS’ fans make their pilgrimages. “The demographic color to the museums has been changed — in terms of generations, in terms of cultural background,” he says. “For many of them, it’s their first encounter with serious contemporary art. That’s a big transformation.”
BTS are not strangers to making big statements. The seven-member group — RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, Jung Kook, Jin and V — just notched a record as Billboard‘s longest-reigning leaders on the Social Artist chart. They’ve broken streaming and viewership records, and performed alongside Lil Nas X at this year’s Grammys, a first for a Korean act. And in an unusual move for a K-pop group, they’ve been particularly outspoken on topics of mental health and global connection, even speaking at the U.N. This art project won’t match the millions of views garnered by their intricate YouTube music videos. But it’s a gesture at their grander ambitions, and a reminder that musical artists with mass appeal don’t have to sacrifice subtlety for popularity.
BY RAISA BRUNER
Antony Gormley is widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space. His work has developed the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s through a critical engagement with both his own body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of where human beings stand in relation to nature and the cosmos. Gormley continually tries to identify the space of art as a place of becoming in which new behaviours, thoughts and feelings can arise.
Gormley's work has been widely exhibited throughout the UK and internationally with exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2019); Delos, Greece (2019); Uffizi Gallery, Florence (2019); Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia (2019); Long Museum, Shanghai (2017); National Portrait Gallery, London (2016); Forte di Belvedere, Florence (2015); Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern (2014); Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia (2012); Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2012); The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (2011); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2010); Hayward Gallery, London (2007); Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (1993) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (1989). Permanent public works include the 'Angel of the North' (Gateshead, England), 'Another Place' (Crosby Beach, England), 'Inside Australia' (Lake Ballard, Western Australia), 'Exposure' (Lelystad, The Netherlands) and 'Chord' (MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA).
Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999, the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture in 2007, the Obayashi Prize in 2012 and the Praemium Imperiale in 2013. In 1997 he was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and was made a knight in the New Year's Honours list in 2014. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an Honorary Doctor of the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity and Jesus Colleges, Cambridge. Gormley has been a Royal Academician since 2003.
Antony Gormley was born in London in 1950.
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