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11 / The Urban Experience

The New York City Waterfalls
The New York City Waterfalls
Artist / Origin Olafur Eliasson (Danish, b. 1967)
Region: North America
Date 2008
Material Scaffolding and piping
Dimensions H: 90–120 ft. (27.4–36.6 m.)
Location New York, NY (temporary installation)
Credit © Alan Schein Photography/CORBIS

expert perspective

Anne PasternakPresident and Artistic Director, Creative Time

Additional Resources

Finkelpearl, Tom. Dialogues in Public Art. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.

Grynsztejn, Madeleine. Olafur Eliasson. London: Phaidon Press, 2002.

Knight, Cher Krauss. Public Art: Theory, Practice and Populism. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

The New York City Waterfalls Web site. http://www.nycwaterfalls.org.

Pasternak, Anne. Creative Time: The Book. 33 Years of Public Art in New York. Edited by Ruth Peltason. Introduction by Lucy Lippard. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007.

The Public Art Fund Web site. http://www.publicartfund.org.

The New York City Waterfalls

» Olafur Eliasson (Danish, b. 1967)

Olafur Eliasson installed his New York City Waterfalls at four carefully chosen locations along the banks of the East River from June through October 2008.

By manipulating the normally flat river into a series of waterfalls that ranged from 90 to 120 feet tall, Eliasson offered his urban audience a new kind of experience of nature. What’s more, by leaving the frames of the waterfalls undisguised, the artist evoked the scaffolding that can be seen across the city, testifying to the dynamic, constantly-changing fabric of the urban environment.

Eliasson’s Waterfalls were made possible by the support of New York City’s Public Art Fund, a non-profit organization established in 1977. The mission of the Public Art Fund, and other similar organizations, is to bring works of contemporary art out of museums and galleries and into open spaces where they can be experienced by a diverse urban public. The Public Art Fund works with established international artists as well as emerging local artists to help them realize projects that might impact the cultural life of New York. Like Eliasson, most of these artists create site-specific pieces that respond and bring new energy to the existing environment. In this way, public art projects such as the Waterfalls prompt inhabitants of the city to look at the urban landscape in new, different, and thought-provoking ways.