Parkgoers Furious Over Teresita Fernández Sculpture at Madison Square Park

Locals fear the project will blot out the sun.


Teresita Fernández’s massive installation Fata Morgana
installed in Madison Square Park.
Some locals are complaining it will block sunlight and trees.
Photo: Courtesy Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Locals around Manhattan’s Madison Square Park are reportedly furious about an upcoming public art project there, a massive installation by MacArthur fellow Teresita Fernández that they say will block trees and sunlight for nine months. Now under construction, the project is scheduled to launch June 1 and remain on view through the winter.

The Madison Square Park Conservancy, which runs the park’s public art program, describes Fernández’s work, a 500-foot-long sculpture in six sections installed horizontally above park visitors, as its most ambitious commission to date. Its title, Fata Morgana, refers to a mirage that appears along the horizon line. It will consist of golden, mirror-polished disks, says the conservancy, that are perforated with patterns reminiscent of foliage. (For our part, we’re looking forward to it, and included it in our roundup of New York’s 10 Most Beautiful Art Shows For Spring.)

Olivia Larrain, a 46-year-old painter and park regular, told DNAinfo: “It’s way too big. We have a tiny park and we want to be able to enjoy the real trees. We don’t want them to be covered up.”

Another park regular, a dog walker named Wonderly White, complained, “It’s huge, it’s enormous and it also looks like they’re building a shelter. This is ridiculous.”

Another regular said he doesn’t go to the park “to sit under scaffolding.”

Brooke Kamin Rapaport, senior curator of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, told artnet News via phone that it’s not as if the sculpture will blot out the sun for the entire park.

“Only nine percent of the park is activated by Fata Morgana,” Rapaport said. “So 90 percent of the park will not be involved in the installation—places like the dog run, the playground, and the reflecting pool.”

“Teresita is very interested in luminosity and viewer experience, and the ambulatory viewer—people walking through and around and under the outdoor sculpture,” says Rapaport. “The project will be radiant and I think that people will come to have great respect for it.”

Fernández has site-specific commissions to her credit at venues such as Louis Vuitton’s Shanghai and Paris facilities, the Savannah College of Art and Design’s outpost in the South of France, and Bennesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan. Her work is also on permanent view at the Olympic Sculpture Park, in Seattle, and a show of her work at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art closed last month. She shows with Lehmann Maupin gallery in New York, and in San Francisco with Anthony Meier Fine Arts, both of which provided financial support for the project.

The Madison Square public art program more typically draws accolades for the works it displays; recent years have seen works by Orly Genger, Jaume Plensa, and, most recently, Paula Hayes (see Paula Hayes’ Luminous Globes of Predigital Castoffs Lure The Instagram Set).

But this isn’t the first time the public art program has set off alarms. In 2010, when Antony Gormley’s life-size figurative sculptures were placed atop buildings surrounding the park, the police heard from callers who mistook the figures for potentially suicidal jumpers.

One unhappy park visitor points out that the Fernández installation is adding to the noise woes already caused by the renovation of Shake Shack, the world-renowned hamburger chain operated by celebrity chef Danny Meyer, which draws crowds to the park whenever it’s open. Shake Shack has been under renovation since October and is expected to re-open in May, just ahead of unveiling of Fata Morgana.

“There’s always something going on and most of the time it involves trucks and generators,” Michael Benabib told DNAinfo. “You go to the park to find peace and all you hear is jackhammer noise.”

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