“The Sunbather,” an 8.5-foot statue that was criticized by Long Island City residents as being too expensive and not visually appealing, was installed in the neighborhood over the weekend.
The piece is a part of the city’s Percent for Art program. The Percent for Art law was initiated by Mayor Ed Koch in 1982, requiring that 1 percent of the budget for eligible city-funded construction projects be spent on artwork for city facilities.
Artist Ohad Meromi created the piece, which sits at the intersection of of Jackson Avenue and 43rd Avenue. The Brooklyn-based artist describes the sculpture as “a generalized body at rest, its surface detail textured, as if made of clay.”
“The peaceful, resting body is an instance of resistance to the productive demand cast upon us relentlessly, as if calling against it for the constitution of an alternative space,” he said in a statement.
The Public Design Commission approved the project on Oct. 26, 2015. The piece, which 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.
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.
An additional $275,000 was spent for engineering construction management services to design and install the foundation, according to DCLA.
“Public art is vitally important to our civic life,” Van Bramer said. “It can bring joy, inspire contemplation, and foster community. ‘The Sunbather’ is an ambitious piece of public art in our neighborhood. I hope to see more significant public artworks installed throughout New York City.”
The bronze piece weighs approximately 4,000 pounds and the material is painted with a special type of pink paint designed to endure outdoor exposure.
“Public art in commercial corridors can revitalize and beautify communities, encouraging pedestrian traffic that in turn helps support our local small businesses. Not only will ‘The Sunbather’ be an iconic sculpture in its own right but it will also provide access to the arts for families throughout Long Island City,” said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer.