Starting next month, a rotation of internationally recognized artists will have their work installed along the Delaware River, in a public sculpture project to last at least a year.
The first sculpture will be by the London-based artist Tracey Emin, who first emerged in the 1990s as one of the more confessional and provocative of the Young British Artists. A Moment Without You — a series of tall poles topped with bronze birds, first installed in Hong Kong in 2017 — will be installed in June on Race Street Pier.
That will be followed in October by a series of three, monumental-sized gateways made of stone slabs, by the Brooklyn-based artist Sam Moyer. Doors for Doris is currently on view in Doris Plaza in New York’s Central Park, for which it was made.
The works are being brought to the city by Philadelphia Contemporary. Director Harry Philbrick plans to temporarily install a new work every few months under the title Water Marks. It will be the fourth time Philadelphia Contemporary has used the waterfront to present artwork and performance: Previously Philbrick worked with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) to present sculpture, performance, and an arts festival at the opening of Cherry Street Pier.
“One of our goals is to get people down to the waterfront because I think it’s a really underutilized resource for the city, and DRWC has put so much into it,” said Philbrick. “They’re just beautiful sites, from Penn Treaty Park to Washington Avenue Green, to old abandoned piers that you can look out on, that are quite wild. The wildlife along the waterfront is amazing. I was down there the other day and saw purple martins flying around, and very big turtles … you can see evidence that there’s beaver on the waterfront.”
After the Emin and Moyer sculptures are installed, Philadelphia Contemporary will begin presenting a trio of works it has commissioned from Jean Shin, Radcliffe Bailey, and Hugh Hayden. What those future sculptures will be has not yet been determined.
All five sculptures in Water Marks are temporary, expected to be on view for at least a year. If all goes well, Philbrick would like to install new work along the river on an ongoing basis.
“Our goal is to make this a long-term project,” he said. “We’re starting with two existing works by sculptors, and then after that we’ll be commissioning new work. As time unrolls, we’ll keep working with new artists to do new commissions.”
In addition to Water Marks, this summer Philadelphia Contemporary will also present Unfolding, work by the Cherry Street Pier’s current and former resident artists, at Atelier Art Gallery. Part of the DRWC’s renovation of the former industrial shipping pier into a public amenity included a cluster of stacked shipping containers converted into artist studios.
Unfolding, running from May 28 to July 23, will be an exhibition of a wide range of artwork, including painting, photography, music, and sculpture, on the theme of public versus private.
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