Due to Ai Weiwei and Public Art Fund’s controversial “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” Exhibit; Park Holiday Tree Moved After 93 Years Under Stanford White-designed 125 Year old monument
The Washington Square Park Christmas Tree arrived this morning following its trek from Vermont. A long standing tradition, the park’s tree lighting is 93 years old this year, surpassing the Rockefeller Center ceremony in age. These pictures show its new location in the Square for 2017. A decision was made to displace the tree from its time-honored location under the Arch due to Ai Weiwei/Public Art Fund and their “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” exhibit which will remain under the famed marble structure until February 2018.
While respecting the underlying intention Ai Weiwei had with this “Fences” exhibit, with 300 locations across the city, the process at Washington Square Park was intentionally done not to include the public until everything had been decided – therefore not being a “good neighbor” at all. This is the prominent issue people have had, on top of whether the Arch is the appropriate place to locate art to begin with.
The location of the tree now on the Fountain Plaza — between the Fountain and the Arch — to me, looks cluttered and just somewhat off, with barricades all around it (you don’t notice those or need them in the same way when the tree is under the Arch). The lit tree and the majestic Arch always look(ed) magical together and uplifting when viewed from Fifth Avenue walking towards the park during the holidays.
I actually think the tree should not have been placed in view of the Arch and Ai Weiwei’s “cage.” And you see, how they framed it so the tree is visible through the cage from Fifth Avenue (which is creative). Yet, this way, the Public Art Fund and the artist get extra publicity because everyone wants the Arch IN photos; it is a natural response since the Stanford White-designed 125 year old Arch is a landmark and piece of art unto itself.
Bypassing Public Input
After bypassing community input in placing the exhibit in the park via a dodgy process – which, by the way, had the support of the Parks Department clearly. Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro showed up at the Community Board “public hearing” in September – yet said not a word. Discussion of placing the Ai Weiwei exhibit under the Arch, it was revealed at the meeting, had begun in June of 2016 and yet the community was only informed through the media in late August 2017. And C.B. 2 also made the wrong call in supporting the way this all went down while saying, in their resolution, ‘this [art under the Arch] should not happen again.’ (My words, not theirs.) Of the full Community Board, 26 people voted for, 8 against.
Tree Lighting & Caroling at the Park
The tree lighting ceremony at Washington Square Park will take place Wednesday, December 6th at 6 p.m. with a Santa Claus, a band and caroling and more holiday caroling and music will take place Sunday, December 24th, Christmas Eve, at 5 p.m., organized by the Washington Square Association, one of the oldest community groups in the city.
At the different articles on this at this blog (see links below), there have great comments about the issue with really important points that the larger mainstream media – and perhaps some of the public – are missing. I will re-post some of these later this week.
What do people think of the relocation this year of the park’s tree?
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Photos #1 & 3, 4: Tricia Vita
Photo #2: Nicholas Santasier via Twitter
Photo #5 & 6: Cathryn
Previously at Washington Square Park Blog: