June 30, 2022
Modern Art Meets the Life Aquatic at the New York Aquarium
- as seen by -Paul A. Tapogna
On Monday, March 1, 2021, at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, a monumental modern sculpture by artist Frank Stella titled K-159 was lowered by crane onto its permanent base. Located on the landscaped pedestrian entrance pathway to the Aquarium from Surf Avenue, the sculpture greets visitors and beachgoers alike as they enter the campus. The sculpture is about 21 feet by 22 feet wide and 19 feet tall and is bolted down to a sloped reinforced concrete base that is one to three feet in height above the sidewalk. The sculpture is constructed from non-combustible elements: steel, carbon fiber, and aluminum. Its overall shape is an assembly of four individual starburst shapes that intersect with one another: two aluminum stars with a mirror-polished finish and two carbon fiber stars with a black-polished finish. The completed sculpture is surrounded by a custom fence, beach grasses, and a new circular pathway with permeable pavement that allows for viewing of the sculpture from all sides. The existing pedestrian walkway area lighting will be supplemented with spotlights to illuminate the sculpture during the evening hours.
This is the first time I have been involved with a design and construction project with such a large work of modern art. The transportation logistics, which included a massive crane-barge in Gravesend Bay, a slow-creeping remote-controlled flatbed truck, and two massive cranes on-site, were fascinating. The care that was taken by the art handlers and riggers to ensure that the work remained undamaged throughout the move was amazing. Although seemingly foreign-looking at first, the forms that constitute the Stella sculpture do have some resonance with the nearby Coney Island Cyclone wood and iron structure and the faceted Vito Acconci elevated subway station across the street.
I think in time, the sculpture will become a memorable meeting place for Aquarium visitors as well as boardwalk beachgoers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The work is a gift from Donald and Barbara Hrbek Zucker.