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Santa Monica wins Eliasson sculpture; awaits a much bigger one

Arts and CultureArtSculptureJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationMichael BloombergLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Santa Monica will soon be sporting a new piece of civic art by Olafur Eliasson, and while it’s on a considerably less massive scale than the giant temporary waterfalls the Danish-Icelandic artist installed along the East River in New York City as a public art project in 2008, it has the advantage of being permanent.

The 9-pound table-top piece is the icing on a $1-million cake -- Santa Monica already having been awarded the cash component by Bloomberg Philanthropies, headed by New York City’s multibillionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The city was one of four prize-winning runners-up in the charity’s Mayors Challenge competition, which rewarded city governments that could come up with problem-solving ideas to improve their citizens’ lives and serve as models for other cities.

Providence, R.I.,won the $5-million grand prize and will receive a shinier metal-plated version of the mainly black stainless steel sculpture that Santa Monica, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia will receive as runners-up.

FULL COVERAGE: 2013 Spring arts preview

Santa Monica won for its Wellbeing Project, a two-year effort to launch a data-based well-being index that measures how residents feel about various facets of their lives --  giving city officials a guide for concentrating government attention where it’s needed.

Eliasson’s sculpture hangs a compass within a circle that has the same tilt as the Earth’s axis, a square that evokes a map, and a 12-faceted polygon that symbolizes the hours on a clock and the months of the calendar. Eliasson, who designed it for the Mayors Challenge, said he wanted to evoke the time and space in which cities exist, the values they share and their mutual aspirations represented in the compass. 

Jessica Cusick, Santa Monica’s cultural affairs manager, said the artwork hasn't arrived yet, but will likely be encased and displayed in the mayor’s office or a public conference room at City Hall. It’ll join a city-owned collection that includes works by Ed Moses, Ed Ruscha, James Turrell and others that are displayed at various municipal facilities.

The next big addition, coming in late May, will be “Weather Field” by Chicago artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle,a 2001 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” winner.  It will be a focal point of the new six-acre Tongva Park, between Ocean Avenue and Main Street, a block from the Santa Monica Pier.

From preliminary artist renderings, “Weather Field” looks like it could be Santa Monica’s much taller, non-luminous answer to Chris Burden’s landmark “Urban Light” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard. It’ll be a grid of 49 telescoping stainless steel poles, 19, 20 or 21 feet high. Each will be topped by a weather vane and an anemometer, a device for measuring wind speed, making this a sculpture whose top spins and whirrs in the wind.

Cusick said that "Weather Field" is due to be installed the week of May 20. Passers-by will be able to see the tops of the poles above the construction fencing until October, when the park is scheduled to open. Manglano-Ovalle’s contract, awarded early last year after a design competition, is for up to $440,200, including transport costs.

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Arts and CultureArtSculptureJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationMichael BloombergLos Angeles County Museum of Art
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