Your Guide To The Best Outdoor Installations Of The Summer 2016

Your Guide To The Best Outdoor Installations Of The Summer 2016
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Ugo Rondinone, Seven Magic Mountains, 2016, Las Vegas, Nevada. Courtesy of Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art. Photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni.

Life Outdoors: The Top Public Installations of Summer 2016

Enjoying life outdoors in 2016 is not as easy as it once was. We tell ourselves we must keep up our normal lives and continue with our usual activities, but it's impossible not to feel--even fleetingly--each time you get on a bus, go to a concert, or simply walk in the streets, the specter of the people whose lives have too recently been taken, all over the world, doing the same. The public space is under threat and under surveillance.

Art cannot provide safety in bleak times, but it can provide ontological sanctuary. At this time of year, when sculpture parks open up, and museums and galleries unveil new outdoor installations, art encourages us to go outside, to enjoy our surroundings and look at them in new ways. This year is not an exception--but the art itself is different. There's wistfulness to the installations going up around the world, addressing both the uncontrollable, the unconscious, and the invisible aspects of open space that makes it so charged and so bountiful. From monumental masterpieces at historic locations to remote sculptures drifting on water, the art outside this season reminds us that we are part of something much bigger that what we are living, here and now.

Calder in the Alps

Alexander Calder, 'Six Planes Escarpé', 1967, installation view, Lake Lauenen, Gstaad, Switzerland, 2016. © 2016 Calder Foundation, New York / DACS London. Courtesy Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Jon Etter .

Epic mountains surround the picturesque village of Gstaad, Switzerland, the location for a new exhibition, organized by Hauser & Wirth, of Alexander Calder's monumental outdoor sculptures. These include his standing mobile 3 flèches blanches (1965), and five stabiles from the 1960s and 1970s, crafted in metal and Calder's instantly recognizable, playful, organic forms. "The landscape of Gstaad is particularly breathtaking, and I am excited to see how the dramatic backdrop synergizes with Calder's sculptures, drawing out and highlighting issues of form and space that the artist has so powerfully deployed in these tremendous works," says James Koch, Executive Director of Hauser & Wirth Zurich. The exhibition--unveiled to the public last week, and on view until September 30--is installed across different locations in Gstaad, so that each work can surprise the viewer.

A Kinetic Roof Garden in Milan

Kinetic Garden, 2016. Courtesy Piuarch.

In the heart of Milan's old city this summer you'll find an organic delight: a moveable feast of plants and vegetables. A collaboration between Italian architects Piuarch and landscape designer Cornelius Gavril and inhabiting the roof of the firm's HQ, a complex structure of flowerbeds and pallets are installed on a walkway, with the colors of the flowers creating an optical effect of movement--in homage to the ideas of kinetic op artist Carlos Cruz-Diez.

Olafur Eliasson at Versailles

Olafur Eliasson, Glacial rock flour garden, 2016, Glacial rock flour. Palace of Versailles, 2016. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriesmchneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York. © Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

"The Versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone," says Olafur Eliasson, whose "spatial interventions" at Versailles have been the most-talked-about art of this summer. "It invites visitors to take control of the authorship of their experience instead of simply consuming and being dazzled by the grandeur. It asks them to exercise their senses, to embrace the unexpected, to drift through the gardens, and to feel the landscape take shape through their movement."


SKUM at Roskilde Music Festival, Bjarke Ingles Group, 2016. Courtesy of CHART ART FAIR.

As part of Chart Art Fair 2016, opening on 26th August, Bjarke Ingels Group (the Danish architect behind the Serpentine's new Pavilion) will create an inflatable pavilion entitled SKUM (don't worry, it's Danish for "foam") to be installed in the baroque courtyard of The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts' Kunsthal Charlottenborg. Its giant bubbles, lit up by changing color LEDs at night, look slightly like an oversized bouncy castle, and that's because it is made from the same material. This encourages a sense of playfulness, not normally associated with such grand and imposing art venues, as visitors walk beneath it. Indeed, it has already proved popular in its incarnation as a bar at Roskilde festival last month. After its appearance at Chart Art Fair this summer, it will be deflated and will travel to 2017's European Culture Capital, Aarhus, where it will take up residence at the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum.

Katharina Grosse, Rockaway!

Katharina Grosse, Rockaway!, site-specific installation. Courtesy the artist and MoMA PS1. Photo: Pablo Enriquez.

At the start of July, MoMA PS1 unveiled Katharina Grosse's latest installation, Rockaway!, at Fort Tilden. Grosse has transformed a derelict aquatics building set in a barren landscape--an area devastated by Hurricane Sandy; the building is to be demolished later this year--with her singular painting technique. Grosse's candied swirls, washed over the building, commemorate its former use, before it disappears forever--a poignant reminder of the fragility of manmade structures against the forces of nature, but also an expression of the hope creativity brings, in making way for new color and form.

Icebergs in Washington D.C

James Corner Field Operations, ICEBERGS, 2016, at the National Building Museum. Photo: Timothy Schenck.

James Corner Field Operations, the urban design and landscape architects behind New York's High Line, have installed over 30 icebergs in the cavernous Great Hall of Washington D.C's National Building Museum. The giant shards--some of them more than 50 feet--hang like stalagmites and stalactites protruding out from the ceiling and the ground. Visitors can wander through the giant glacial landscape to a viewing platform, or descend down two slides within. "ICEBERGS symbolizes an extreme counterpoint to the sweltering heat of the Washington, D.C. summer," said Chase W. Rynd, Hon. ASLA, executive director of the National Building Museum, giving an insight into this atypical yet striking choice for the season, on view until September 5th. Made of translucent polycarbonate panels, the icebergs also create glorious effects with the hot sun streaming thickly through the museum's windows.

Floating Dreams on the Thames

Ik-Joong Kang, Floating Dreams, 2016, rendering. Courtesy the artist.

From 1 September, acclaimed South Korean artist Ik-Joong Kang will present a major new installation on the River Thames, near Millennium Bridge, as part of Totally Thames, a month-long festival bringing London's river to life. Kang's three-story high, illuminated work is made up of 500 tiny drawings by North Koreans who fled to the South during the war, 66 years ago, depicting their memories of what they were forced to leave behind. The delicate floating cube speaks of the specific and painful impact of conflict on individuals, but, in bringing them together, symbolizes the hope for future unification.

Ugo Rondinone in the Nevada Desert

Ugo Rondinone, Seven Magic Mountains, 2016, Las Vegas, Nevada. Courtesy of Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art. Photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni.

From wet, to dry: Rondinone's Seven Magic Mountains, in the desert half an hour from downtown Las Vegas, combines the compelling chromatic colors of contemporary pop with the stature and power of prehistoric art. Each of the seven teetering towers, constructed from chunks of limestone rock, rises more than 30 feet. They're inspired by hoodoos--ancient geologic pile structures located in Utah. Rondinone is no stranger to monumental creations, but this was a special project for the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, who worked with the Swiss-born artist for five years. It cost in excess of $3.5 million to realize. Less than a month after it opened to the public, the boulders were vandalized, but in a statement released by the producers, they said the area is consistently monitored and that the damage would be repaired immediately. The totemic land art will remain in the desert for two years.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude's Floating Piers

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16. © 2016 Christo. Photo: Wolfgang Volz.

Perhaps the most popular outdoor installation of the summer of 2016 was open to the public, for free, for just 16 days, from June 18 to July 3: a three-kilometer walkway on Lake Iseo, Italy, joining Sulzano to Monte Isola and the island of San Paolo. Known for his transformative, ephemeral, public artworks, Christo--whose longtime collaborator and wife, Jeanne-Claude, passed away six years ago--said, "In over fifty years of activity, Jeanne-Claude and I have realized only 22 of the 59 works that we conceived, owing to the difficulty of obtaining permits. While we have lost interest in some of the unfinished projects, there are others we still care deeply about: The Floating Piers is one of these." 1.2 million visitors experienced the sensation that was likened to walking on water, thanks to its 220,000 floating cubes.

--Charlotte Jansen

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