NEW YORK, September 17, 2019—The Whitney Museum of American Art yesterday celebrated the groundbreaking of Day’s End, a permanent public art project by New York-based artist David Hammons (b. 1943). Slated for completion in the fall of 2020, the project was developed in collaboration with the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT). The sculpture will be located in Hudson River Park along the southern edge of Gansevoort Peninsula, directly across from the Museum, within the footprint of the former Pier 52. Hammons’s Day’s End (2020) derives its inspiration and name from Gordon Matta-Clark‘s 1975 artwork in which he cut openings into the existing, abandoned Pier 52 shed transforming it into monumental sculpture.
David Hammons was born in Springfield, Illinois, in 1943. He moved to Los Angeles in 1963, attending the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) and the Otis Art Institute. In 1974, he moved to New York, where he still lives and works. Hammons was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984 and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1991. In 1990 his work was the subject of a career survey, David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble, 1969–1990, at PS1. His work is in numerous collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art; The Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Tate Britain. His art has profoundly influenced a younger generation of artists.
An open structure—a three-dimensional drawing in space—that precisely follows the outline, dimensions, and location of the original Pier 52 structure, Hammons’s Day’s End, will be a “ghost monument” to the earlier work by Matta-Clark and allude to the history of New York’s waterfront, from the original commercial piers that stood along the Hudson River during the heyday of New York’s shipping industry to the reclaimed piers that became an important gathering place for the gay and artist communities. Open to everyone, Day’s End is designed to coexist with HRPT’s planned park at Gansevoort Peninsula and to bring visitors down to the water’s edge.
The celebration took place at sunset in the Museum’s third floor Susan and John Hess Family Gallery and Theater, overlooking the project site on the Gansevoort Peninsula. Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney, paid tribute to Hammons, an internationally acclaimed artist with longtime ties to the Museum and deep roots in New York, and thanked the project’s funders and collaborators during the evening’s remarks.
The commencement of the installation was heralded by a presentation on the Hudson River by the Fire Department of New York City’s Marine Company 9 and their fireboat the Fire Fighter II. The performance, a “water tango,” featured a display of the boat’s water cannons and served as a prelude to the premiere of a new piece by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer and bandleader Henry Threadgill (b. 1944). A sextet debuted the overture to Threadgill’s 6 to 5, 5 to 6, a two-part work commissioned by the Whitney on the occasion of Hammons’s Day’s End. The composition responds to the architectural structure and engineering schematics of the artwork. Its title is based upon the preponderance of the numbers 5 and 6, and their myriad combinations and subdivisions, found in the project’s design. The commission is overseen by Adrienne Edwards, the Engell Speyer Family Curator and Curator of Performance at the Whitney. The second part of the commission will premiere at the unveiling of Day’s End in fall 2020.
Henry Threadgill was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1944, and is one of only three jazz artists to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. Playing a myriad of instruments in his childhood from percussion to clarinet to saxophone, by his late teens he joined the Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band, which later expanded into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). In 1970, Threadgill moved to New York City, exploring approaches to jazz music with various group acts over the next forty years—from AIR (Artists In Residence), his 1970s trio that reimagined ragtime without the piano, to his current band, Zooid, representing a culmination of decades of his musical process as a composer. In 2016, Threadgill was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in music for Zooid’s album In for a Penny, In for a Pound (2015). He was also the recipient of the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award, 2008 United States Artist Fellowship, and 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Weinberg also announced that the Whitney will present an exhibition, drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection, related to Matta-Clark’s seminal work that inspired Hammons’s sculpture. Titled Around Day’s End: Downtown New York, 1970–1986, and on view from July through October 2020, the exhibition is organized by Whitney assistant curator Laura Phipps and will include approximately fifteen artists, in addition to Matta-Clark, who worked in the downtown New York milieu of the 1970s and early 1980s. The work of these artists, including Alvin Baltrop, Joan Jonas, and Martin Wong, embodies ideas of artistic intervention into the urban fabric of New York City. A photographic installation by Dawoud Bey, who will also be the subject of a survey exhibition at the Whitney in the fall of 2020, captures Hammons at work on other outdoor pieces in New York.
“The Whitney’s collaboration with David Hammons, one of the most influential artists of our time, represents our profound commitment to working with living artists and supporting their visions intimate or grand. The open form of the work—a building without a roof, walls, floor, doors or windows—is a welcoming metaphor that represents our commitment to community and civic good,” said Weinberg. “Just steps away from the Whitney, Day’s End celebrates the history of the Hudson River waterfront and the neighborhood and the City. We are deeply grateful for the support Day’s End has already received from New York City, as well as neighborhood, arts, historic preservation, LGBTQ, commercial and environmental groups, and we look forward to the ribbon-cutting in fall of 2020.”
“This inspiring project will celebrate the historic waterfront and perfectly align with our newly designed park on the peninsula,” said Madelyn Wils, President & CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust. “We’re incredibly appreciative of this collaboration with our neighbors at the Whitney and looking forward to seeing the project take shape at what will certainly be one of the most visually dynamic spots in all of Hudson River Park.”
In tandem with the realization of the project, the Whitney Museum is developing rich interpretive materials including the Whitney’s first podcast series, videos, neighborhood walking tours, and a children’s guide. These will take Hammons’s Day’s End (2020) and Matta-Clark’s Day’s End (1975) as jumping-off points for exploring the history of the waterfront and the Meatpacking District, the role of artists in the neighborhood, the diverse cultural and ethnic histories, its LGBTQ history, the commercial history, and the ecology of the estuary. New research, archival materials, and oral history interviews will all be incorporated. The interpretative materials will be accessible on site and online, including for mobile use.
Day’s End is developed in collaboration with HRPT and will be donated by David Hammons and the Whitney Museum to the Park upon completion. The project will rise directly south of the HRPT’s planned Gansevoort Peninsula Park, which will include a sandy beach area with kayak access and a seating area; a salt marsh with habitat enhancements; a large sports field; and on its western side, picnic tables and lounge chairs. That section of the park is slated to start construction next year and open in 2022.
The Whitney, HRPT, and Hammons are committed to ensuring that the artwork becomes an integral part of the local area and waterfront fabric—as were the working piers that preceded it. The Whitney will continue to share its plans and engage in a dialogue with the community over the coming months as the project installation continues.
Attendees at the event included New York State Senator Brad Hoylman; Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development for New York City Vicki Been; Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer; Commissioner, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Tom Finkelpearl; Hudson River Park President & CEO Madelyn Wils; Whitney Trustees Jill Bikoff, Neil G. Bluhm, Nancy Carrington Crown, Gaurav Kapadia, Jonathan O. Lee, Brooke Garber Neidich, Julie Ostrover, Nancy Poses, Scott Resnick, Richard D. Segal, Fern Kaye Tessler, Thomas E. Tuft, and Fred Wilson; Whitney curators Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, Adrienne Edwards, Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Elisabeth Sussman, and Laura Phipps; and artists Derrick Adams, Jules Allen, Dawoud Bey, Torkwase Dyson, Awol Erizku, Rachel Harrison, Maren Hassinger, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Dave McKenzie, Julie Mehretu, Sarah Michelson, Jason Moran, and Adam Pendleton.