David Hammons’s Homage to Gordon Matta-Clark Began as a Quick Sketch. Now It’ll Be a Monumental Fixture of New York’s Landscape
The artwork will welcome people on New York's Hudson River.
A long-awaited public artwork by critically acclaimed artist David Hammons is finally on the verge of its official unveiling, and as workers complete the finishing touches on the installation, the piece can already be seen by eagle-eyed art lovers on the water’s edge across from New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.
Seven years in the making, Day’s End (2021) will open to the public on Sunday, May 16, during a “community day” for the institution. Admission to the museum will be free from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Capacity is limited, but there will be family programming in outdoor spaces, as well as a bilingual kids’ activity guide to the new work.
The permanent artwork takes the ghostly shape of the 325-foot-long, 52-foot-tall shed that formerly stood on Pier 52, off the Gansevoort Peninsula, the only remaining section of Manhattan’s old 13th Avenue. It is Hammons’s tribute to Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978), who in 1975 reclaimed the old abandoned shed as a work of art, using a blow torch to carve five holes into the structure’s walls to create a “sun and water temple.”
The city tried to sue Matta-Clark for the unauthorized artwork—also titled Day’s End—but ultimately dropped the charges. The building, which was in its latter years an illicit meeting place for the gay community, was later demolished.
Hammons pitched the idea to the Whitney in 2014 in an unconventional manner. Shortly after visiting the institution ahead of its public opening that year, the artist sent the museum a pencil sketch showing the outline of a building floating above the Hudson. He did not include a letter, only the caption “Monument to Gordon Matta-Clark” in block letters under the drawing.
“During his tour, while gazing out the west-facing windows toward the Hudson River, I had made an off-hand comment that artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s notorious and now legendary artwork entitled Day’s End (1975) was once located on the waterfront across the way,” Adam D. Weinberg, the museum’s director, wrote in a recent essay on the Whitney website. “In retrospect, I now realize that Hammons was more captivated by the waterfront than by the museum’s magnificent fifth-floor galleries in which he stood.”
Yet the artist didn’t recreate the structure with the hefty girders that were used when it was first built in the 19th century.
“[Hammons] desired the frame to be as thin as possible so that it would appear like his sketch: evanescent, fugitive (in both senses of the word), and ephemeral, suspended in space,” Weinberg wrote.
The result is something of an apparition, becoming more or less visible depending on the weather and time of day.
The Whitney has overseen the construction of Day’s End (2021), and will be responsible for its upkeep, but is donating the work to the Hudson River Park Trust as part of the terms of the Hudson River Park Act legislation that approved its creation.
There are plans to turn Gansevoort Peninsula into a park with picnic tables, kayak slips, a lawn, a sports field, and Manhattan’s first public beach, which will be located underneath Day’s End. Construction will begin this spring.
See more photos of the site under construction and renderings below.
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