A Rose for the New Museum

Man may be the measure of all things, as Protagoras would claim, but for the next ten months or so, somewhere in the vicinity of the Bowery and Prince Street, a rose may provide the measuring stick. The New Museum's second presentation of their Façade Sculpture Program, a work titled Rose II (2007) by Berlin-based artist Isa Genzken, offers the strolling public the spectacle of a twenty-eight-foot tall long-stemmed blushing rose. The rose, made of stainless steel, aluminum and lacquer, stands upright and rigid, perched on an outdoor ledge of the museum (235 Bowery), quite graceful and nimble considering there's no vase to set it up so straight.  

Scaling up people and objects for the purposes of public art is nothing new. The examples in New York include hundreds of larger-than-life statues of famous historical figures, some with their horses, as well as many lions, a charging bull, and several bears. The most famous of all public art sculptures would be that statue of a very impressive woman in New York Harbor, a gift from France. Examples of simple objects made big come to mind, including the Fashion District's giant needle and thread (1995) by Pentagram Architectural Services on Seventh Avenue and Jeff Koons’s Balloon Flower (1995-2000) downtown at 7 WTC Park. Manipulating objects with respect to scale makes us take them less for granted, leading to a heightened sense of observation about its other physical properties and its intangibles, including symbolism and meaning. In the case of a giant rose, we can start with stems, leaves, and petals, but we will no doubt leap to many other spiritual and emotional associations, among them, peace, love, and beauty.  

The work of artist Genzken, who represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and whose work is represented by David Zwirner Gallery in New York, often focuses on the modernist tradition and the visual culture of architecture. The sculpture here is most certainly in play with the building. Rose II nicely sets off a visual dialogue with the stacked white boxes of the SANAA-designed museum - the soft oval petals and leaves of the flower versus the hard right edges of the manmade building, the beauties of biology versus the esthetics of the machine. They look good with one another, the rose and the building, like an elegant floral addition to a stack of gift boxes. Rose II's long date with the museum ends November 13, 2011.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. January 9, 2011.

About Walking Off the Big Apple

Walking Off the Big Apple features self-guided tours to neighborhoods, streets, cultural history, good books, architecture, museums, parks, landscapes, and offbeat travel experiences in New York City.

Older posts will sometimes be updated to reflect relevant changes in the city, i.e. store or restaurant closings or transit information.

Writer and editor Teri Tynes created Walking Off the Big Apple in the summer of 2007.

As of January 2018, this website is updated only during bouts of nostalgia or when the writer feels compelled to share a fresh museum calendar.