Is it art? BMA, West say it is

Entertainment,Jessica Novak
The giant pink balls stacked 20 feet into the air outside the Baltimore Museum of Art aren’t eyesores. They’re art.

If you question that and whether the balls should be revered, consider Franz West, the acclaimed Austrian artist who created the 1,150 pound sculpture, happy.

Trained in the 1960s and ’70s, West is a part of a generation that questioned if we should think of artworks as precious objects, worthy of our devotion, said Darsie Alexander, the BMA’s senior curator of contemporary art. “Anyone seeing the sculpture will know it’s art. It can’t be anything else.”

In early September with a massive crew, crane and truck, the BMA installed the sculpture, named “Dorit” for West’s friend, as an introduction to the first major U.S. retrospective on West. The exhibit opens at the BMA Oct. 12.

“I like art in the streets,” West has said, according to the Public Art Fund in New York. “It doesn’t demand that you make a special journey to see it, it’s simply there.”

Public art such as “Dorit” contributes to the quality of our life, said Bill Gilmore, executive director for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, which sponsors several programs that place sculptures and installations beside our homes and offices.

“Living in an urban environment today, people expect to have interaction with pieces of public art,” he added. “Art in various forms becomes part of the fabric of a neighborhood. I’m not going to put it up there with Mother Nature, but as far as our man-made environment, public art is as important as buildings, benches and signs.”

To Gilmore, fielding questions about public artworks from people who would like them moved or taken down altogether is a part of the territory. “And that’s part of what makes it special — the dialogue that comes from it.”
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