Central Park, New York, USA

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Review by Josephine Breese

Franz West’s artistic motivations for his sculpture at the Doris C Freedman Plaza, marking a southern entrance to Central Park, neatly coincide with the ethos of The Public Art Fund. The work fulfils the organisation’s commitment to exhibiting artworks beyond the museum and incorporating them into shared spaces and the public realm in New York City.
West insists that ‘The Ego and The Id’ is only complete through interaction with the viewer. When shown at The Baltimore Art Museum for West’s retrospective last year, the scale of ‘The Ego and The Id’ was overwhelming in the gallery space. Surrounded by towering, angular skyscrapers and rushing traffic, the more modest 20 ft organic curves of the piece feel approachable and welcome in this new context. While a respectful hush falls over galleries and museums, the inherent hesitance of museum visitors to throw themselves noisily into interacting with artworks is lost in the Plaza. The sculpture’s irregular forms loop towards the pavement and curl into inviting, low slung stools, which provoke an instinctual response to sit, stroke, knock, tap and listen to the hollow metal.
Even for those who do not choose to actively engage with ‘The Ego and The Id’, in this way, its crudely alluring colours grab the curiosity of passers-by. The electric greens, blues, oranges and yellows starkly project from the soft autumnal backdrop of Central Park’s turning leaves. However, the sculpture’s gently lolloping limbs pose a happy medium between the stark surrounding modern architecture and the park. While ‘The Ego and The Id’ is playful and interactive, however, West’s chosen title is entrenched in specific understanding of Freudian theory. Watching the sculpture’s visitors, most viewers disregarded the explanatory information, although the accompanying text did not attempt to simplify the title. This minimal, but lasting, issue arguably conflicts with West’s commitment to total accessibility. Nevertheless, this detail does not necessarily detract from viewers’ enjoyment, particularly children, who perceive ‘The Ego and The Id’ as an open invitation to clamber up and scale the sculpture’s legs.

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