1.4-Million-Dollar Paul McCarthy Installation to Park Ave Armory


The new artistic director at the Park Avenue Armory has big plans, to judge by a document titled “draft programme for 2013 season” obtained by Art in America. In view of the still short tenure of incoming artistic director Alex Poots, whose appointment was announced in December, the document may reflect very preliminary outlines, but it reflects Poots’s hopes for an ambitious season.

Topping what appears to be Poots’s wish list is a spring show by L.A. artist Paul McCarthy, known for his scatological videos and performances, to fill the venue’s 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall. It would have a $1.4-million budget and feature a site-specific work “by arguably America’s leading sculptor,” according to the draft document. The show would be “overwhelming, brutal, breathtaking, shocking, transcendental, unforgettable.” A parenthetical note, “curated by HUO and AP,” indicates that the ubiquitous Hans Ulrich Obrist will be in the mix.

Poots has been director of the Manchester International Festival since its founding in 2005, and he will retain that post while working with the Armory. One distinguishing mark of his tenure there is his booking of popular musicians, and Poots apparently wants to introduce a pop-music component to the Armory’s programming as well. September is booked for an “urban music artist . . . eg Janelle Monae or Missy Elliot.” Such an event would come a little cheaper than McCarthy, at an estimated $50,000.

Highbrow performances are not neglected. In July and August, we may see a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet of works by Balanchine and avant-garde dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch (ringing up at $1.1 million). And October may see the Berlin Philharmonic bring Brahms’s Requiem to the Armory.

Other major works “TBC” (to be commissioned) are a site-specific theater work, “Kasparov,” about the legendary chess player and “his seminal match against the Deep Blue computer.” The price tag: $1.15 million.

On the whole, Poots’s proposals maintain the high quality of recent programming, which has included projects by Christian Boltanski and Ernesto Neto. Tom Sachs opens his sculptural installation “Space Station 2.0” in May.

Long a venue for art and antiques shows, the Armory also houses a city women’s shelter and in recent years played host to performances as part of the Whitney Biennial.

The Armory hired Poots as its first artistic director at the end of 2011 and increased the programming budget threefold, to $5 million, according to the New York Times. The building is also undergoing a $200-million restoration by Herzog & de Meuron.

The increased activity at the Armory was initially protested by the co-op boards representing nearby buildings, joined by neighbors including financier Henry Kravis and filmmaker Woody Allen. They protested that increased traffic would be, according to a letter from Kravis, “not in keeping with the residential nature of our neighborhood.”

Image: Christian Boltanski, No Man’s Land, 2010, at the Park Avenue
Armory. Photo by James Ewing.