“The Sunbather,” a bright pink, 8.5-foot statue designed by Brooklyn artist Ohad Meromi, will be erected at Jackson and 43rd avenues in Long Island City in mid-2016.
The artwork is part of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCLA) Percent for Art Program, which began in 1982 and requires 1 percent of the budget for eligible city-funded construction projects to be spent on public artwork. The Public Design Commission (PDC) approved the plan on Oct. 26.
According to a spokesman for the DCLA, the PDC will now work on a detailed timeline for the fabrication and installation of the sculpture, which will be completed next year.
The piece, which will cost $515,000 in city tax dollars, sparked a debate at a Community Board 2 meeting last year, with several residents saying the size, color and price tag were too excessive. Some also argued that a local artist’s work should have been highlighted in the community.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer also held a town hall meeting with Tom Finkelpearl, the commissioner of DCLA in March to discuss several topics, including the sculpture.
According to Sara Reisman, former director for the Percent for Art Program, 40 artists, including local Long Island City artists, were presented to a panel that later picked finalists and ultimately chose Meromi’s piece.
In response to the public outcry, Van Bramer sponsored Introduction 742-A, a bill that requires the Department of Cultural Affairs to provide advance notification of its plans to include works of art in a Percent for Art project on DCLA’s website. The agency would also be required to present its plans in a public meeting, such as a community board meeting. City Council passed the bill in May.
In an interview with the New York Times, Meromi said the criticism “doesn’t feel great” and that the “introduction of color will be like a gift to the location, which is, like, gray and glass.”
A spokesperson for DCLA said there were minor changes to the sculpture, mostly in the positioning, since it was presented to the community board.
The Courier reached out to Community Board 2 and is awaiting comment.