Ben Van Berkel stands before the New Amsterdam Pavilion he designed with his firm UN Studio and Handel Architects located at the Battery. (Courtesy Handel Architects)
That would be Dutch for “Happy Birthday Sol Lewitt!” For you see, the Dutch have arrived in the city this week to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Henry Hudson and the subsequent founding of New Amsterdam. As part of the week-long festivities, they have unveiled a Ben Van Berkel-designed pavilion (above) down on the Battery that was announced back in January. But once those festivities are over, perhaps ours trans-Atlantic friends might head uptown to Columbus Circle, where the MTA unveiled its latest Arts for Transit project today, a 53-foot long tile rendition of one of Lewitt’s wall drawings entitled “Whirls and twirls (MTA).” The installation was revealed today as it would have been the Conceptualist artist’s 82nd birthday. (He died in 2007.)
Sol Lewitt's "Whirls and Twirls (MTA)" was unveiled today at the Columbus Circle station. (Courtesy MTA)
According to the MTA, Lewitt began work on the project in 2004 and it consists of 250 individual tiles in 6 colors all cut and arrayed to the artists typically exacting specifications. “It is a very special and unique creation because it is a permanent public installation of a wall drawing, executed in porcelain tile. Usually the wall drawings are executed in paint or pencil based on exacting instructions by the artist,” Sandra Bloodworth, director for the Arts for Transit and Facilty Design programs, said in a release. The installation is part of the city’s ongoing rehabilitation of the Columbus Circle station, which, in addition to the Lewitt installation, includes new lighting, flooring, and tiles, a new entrance at 60th Street and Broadway, and new bathrooms and newsstands.
Did something get lost on the way to the mini golf course? (Julie Iovine)
Back downtown and above ground, not all was high design, however. Yes, the Prince of Orange and Princess Maxima were on hand to help Mayor Bloomberg unveil UN Studio’s New Amsterdam Pavilion (for which Handel Architects was the local partner). It’s a nice little place that not only offers information about the surrounding neighborhoods and city but also goings on in the Netherlands—though what good that is to locals or tourists is not exactly clear. But by far the worst import was a windmill photographed by our fearless leader Julie Iovine, which looked less like a symbol of Dutcha pride than a new hole on some Lower Manhattan mini-golf course.