Rockefeller Center Celebrates Van Gogh


Elmgreen and Dragset's sculpture of "Van Gogh's Ear." (Photo courtesy of the artists and Public Art Fund)
“Van Gogh’s Ear” at Rockefeller Center. (Photo courtesy of the artists and Public Art Fund)

A new art installation that pays homage to the legendary artist Vincent Van Gogh made its debut at Rockefeller Center on Tuesday.

“Van Gogh’s Ear,” a sculpture created by the European artistic duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset is now on display on the Fifth Avenue plaza between 49th and 50th Streets.

The creative work was requested by Rockefeller Center, which partners with the non-profit arts organization, Public Art Fund, in selecting artworks to exhibit.

“We actually started to think about this two or three years ago,” said Dragset. “It took us half a year to execute it.”

Elmgreen and Dragset admitted that the concept of Van Gogh’s ear wasn’t originally the inspiration behind creating the sculpture. It started off as a pool.

“To be honest, the title came after the idea,” said Dragset. “It was more about the displacement of the pool itself. We wanted to do something really contrasting with the busy urban life.”

After building the pool, the artists realized it resembled the shape of an ear, which then inspired the concept.

“We thought about what’s the most famous ear in the world and is also kind of displaced? And we came up with Van Gogh’s ear,” said Dragset.

Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund director and chief curator, said he’s pleased with the project.

“I think the most successful projects that we do have that ability to be amazing works of arts within themselves but also engaging with their surroundings and allowing us who are New Yorkers and are familiar with the streets of New York to make us relook at what is so familiar and see it with fresh eyes,” he said.  “I think Van Gogh’s ear really does that.”

Although the rainy weather limited public attendance, one pedestrian was excited about the sculpture.

“I think it’s really arresting, because of the blue color,” said Stephanie Daniel, a New York resident. “Especially when you go across the street to Saks and you can see the full height of it. It’s pretty impressive.”

This isn’t the first time Elmgreen and Dragset have created unexpected artworks that contrast with an environment.

“We often work with these kind of displacements where we put an odd object into a local context almost as if a UFO had landed,” said Elmgreen, referring to Prada Marfa, the duo’s creation of a model of a Prada store in the middle of the Texas desert along Highway 90, near Marfa.

“We took something very urban and put it along the countryside. Here we took something very suburban and put in the city.” said Elmgreen.

The artists said they want to send a message with “Van Gogh’s Ear.”

“We hope that it will cheer people up,” said Dragset. “It’s such a different object from the rest of the whole environment that’s the normal busy, busy life.”

Today’s debut of the installation falls within two weeks of what would have been Van Gogh’s 163rd birthday on March 30. “Van Gogh’s Ear” will be on display until June 3.