You Can’t Swim in Elmgreen and Dragset’s Public Swimming Pool

The Scandinavian art duo evade expectations.

Elmgreen & Dragset, rendering of "Van Gogh's Ear" (2016).
Photo: Courtesy of the Public Art Fund.

The Public Art Fund has commissioned Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset to install a 1950s-style swimming pool at the 5th avenue entrance of New York’s Rockefeller Center. But, as is often the case with works by these masters of mischief, there’s one catch: It’ll be standing upright.

Titled Van Gogh’s Ear, the full-scale pool will be erected across from high-end fashion mecca Saks Fifth Avenue. The sculpture comes with all of the usual trappings, including a stainless steel ladder, a diving board, and a traditional, cyan blue interior.

The installation, which displaces an ordinary swimming pool and strips it of its functionality, is intended to follow in the conceptual footsteps of Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades.

“The sculpture recalls the 1950s-style pools found in front of some Californian private homes, in contrast to this very public East coast urban setting,” the artists explained in a statement. “It is as if an alien spaceship had landed in the midst of this prominent and busy environment.”

This isn’t the first time the Berlin-based art duo have created a public spectacle. In fact, Danish artist Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset, who started collaborating back in 1995, are notorious for their penchant for being playful.

Elmgreen and Dragset, Prada boutique in Texan desert.<br>Photo: Courtesy of Veronique DUPONT/AFP/Getty Images.

Elmgreen and Dragset, Prada boutique in Texan desert.
Photo: Courtesy of Veronique DUPONT/AFP/Getty Images via Art Production Fund.

Just last year, they created a humorous pretend art fair replete with their own works intended to critique art world commercialization. There’s also their vandalism-prone empty, faux-Prada boutique store on a roadside deep in the desert of Marfa, Texas. And prior to the official premiere of their upcoming public swimming pool, Elmgreen and Dragset will be opening a politically-charged exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum on March 31.

“Elmgreen & Dragset: Van Gogh’s Ear,” will be on view at the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center, Wednesday, April 13–June 3, 2016, before traveling to China.


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