CONEY ISLAND — If approved by the city, visitors at the New York Aquarium may soon be welcomed by a new $1.65 million geometric Frank Stella sculpture, known as K-159, Jon Forrest Dohlin, the Aquarium’s director told Bklyner.
The carbon fiber and stainless steel piece was first commissioned by Manhattan Beach native and real estate magnate Don Zucker, an art connoisseur and longtime friend of Stella, for one of his Manhattan buildings. That was more than a decade ago, and Zucker sold the building before the five-ton 22-feet-high sculpture could be installed, and since 2010 the work has been stored at the Port Authority in New Jersey waiting for the right place to call itself home.
Zucker was visiting the Aquarium about a year ago with his wife Barbara, when he got the idea that the parking lot between Surf Avenue and the Riegelmann Boardwalk may just be the perfect spot. Zuckers are large donors to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the organization that manages the Aquarium (the couple also donated $7.5 million to the WCS in 2012), and Barbara Zucker is a long-time trustee of WCS.
“Don realized the parking lot needed something, it could be improved,” said Bob Esnard a spokesman for the Zucker Company. “He went back and walked along the strip of green with parking on both sides with Frank Stella, Jon Dohlin and Barbara, and they figured out the appropriate space where it can welcome people not just to the Aquarium, but to all of Coney Island.”
“Stella is one of the world’s finest sculptors, his work appears in MOMA, the Kunstmuseum (in Basel), the National Gallery of Art, among many other prominent places, it is an honor for us to get this piece,” Dohlin said in his presentation to Community Board 13 announcing the proposed gift in November.
The Aquarium plans to protect the piece with 24-hour security and it would be enclosed by the cultural institution’s gates after hours, but visible at all times from the West 8th Street Subway station overpass, Dohlin said. The Aquarium’s current insurance would cover all costs for the piece, and Stella has already given his advice on how to maintain the piece given the likelihood it would give perching opportunities to local pigeons, seagulls, and starlings and attract bird droppings as the result.
The proposed donation received enthusiastic support from members of Community Board 13’s Parks Committee, and Community Board 13 is expected to recommend approving the sculpture installation project in the next general meeting scheduled on January 29th.
Dohlin said that he is scheduling meetings in the coming weeks with officials in the Parks Department and the Department of Cultural Affairs to approve the aquarium’s plans to receive the donation. After, he will take the proposal to the Public Design Commission hopefully in time for their March 18th meeting – the gift must be approved by the oversight body because the aquarium is on public land.
“We are going to go for one review, known as preliminary and final and if all goes to plan we can start construction needed to accept the statue after that one review,” Dohlin hopes.
Esnard is not entirely sure how the large piece will be transported to Coney Island — it was brought by boat from Stella’s studio in Belgium to New Jersey, so it may travel again – by boat – closer to Coney Island and get its final trek to the aquarium by truck.
“The art will speak for itself,” said Esnard, “it only works in special places where people appreciate it. This will add not just to the aquarium, but the Cyclone and the beach.”
The story was updated to reflect that steel mesh would not be used for the base of the piece as originally reported.