Please wait
Tagged with: Exhibitions, Sculpture, Installation, Artists, Community, Interview

Tony Tasset Opens Up the Artist List

In the 2014 Biennial catalogue, Tony Tasset referred to inclusion in the Whitney Biennial as a personal “white whale,” an aspiration that he pursued for a quarter-century and achieved in 2014. When his moment arrived, he responded with a populist gesture, engraving the names of hundreds of thousands of other artists on a new public sculpture located in New York City’s Hudson River Park. Since its installation in March, Artists Monument has become an attraction not only for those passing by Chelsea Piers, but also for artists who visit the site to search for their own names and those of friends. For this Whitney Stories interview, Tasset responded to questions about the work, which remains on view through May 25.

Tony Tasset, Artists Monument, 2014 (installation view, Pier 45, Hudson River Park, Whitney Biennial 2014). 400,000 names etched on acrylic panels mounted on steel and wood, 96 × 960 × 96 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Kavi Gupta, Chicago. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Tony Tasset, Artists Monument, 2014 (installation view, Pier 45, Hudson River Park, Whitney Biennial 2014). 400,000 names etched on acrylic panels mounted on steel and wood, 96 × 960 × 96 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Kavi Gupta, Chicago. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

The Artists Monument is situated near the Whitney’s new building, which will open in the spring of 2015. Could you tell us about your decision to work with this site?

I had the idea for the Artists Monument for a few years but I really wanted to show the work in New York where there is such a concentration of artists. I had almost given up when Michelle [Grabner] heard about the piece and invited me to participate in the Biennial. I can’t think of a more perfect location or occasion. There is incredible pedestrian traffic along that stretch of the river and it’s close to the Chelsea galleries, the High Line and the new building. Unlike a traditional monument that is supposed to project stoic permanence, the Artists Monument is made on shipping containers. The location at the docks emphasizes the global, fluid new paradigm of a constantly moving art world. The goal was that as the weather warmed up and artists heard about the Monument they might make a pilgrimage to find their name, and indeed they have.

Tony Tasset, Artists Monument, 2014 (installation view, Pier 45, Hudson River Park, Whitney Biennial 2014). 400,000 names etched on acrylic panels mounted on steel and wood, 96 × 960 × 96 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Kavi Gupta, Chicago. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Tony Tasset, Artists Monument, 2014 (installation view, Pier 45, Hudson River Park, Whitney Biennial 2014). 400,000 names etched on acrylic panels mounted on steel and wood, 96 × 960 × 96 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Kavi Gupta, Chicago. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

How does this project relate to other public sculptures you’ve made?

Over the last ten years I’ve produced seven public sculptures. They are all different stylistically but they do share a strong populist pull. These sculptures have elicited lots of selfies and Instagram uploads. Populism is a dirty word for art but when I make a public work I want to speak to a wide audience. The Artists Monument is a little more “insider” than the other public works I’ve made. The form is closer to minimalism as opposed to the vernacular forms I’ve riffed on in the past like the giant Eye in Dallas or the 94-foot tall Rainbow in Culver City. The monument is for artists, their families, friends, and followers, but in New York City that’s a lot of people.

The monument pays tribute to nearly 400,000 artists whose names were culled from the Internet. Could you tell us about that process?

There are several databases on the Internet that rank artists according to some unknown criteria. After about fifteen minutes of research I found one of the biggest ones.

Tony Tasset, Artists Monument, 2014 (installation view, Pier 45, Hudson River Park, Whitney Biennial 2014). 400,000 names etched on acrylic panels mounted on steel and wood, 96 × 960 × 96 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Kavi Gupta, Chicago. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Tony Tasset, Artists Monument, 2014 (installation view, Pier 45, Hudson River Park, Whitney Biennial 2014). 400,000 names etched on acrylic panels mounted on steel and wood, 96 × 960 × 96 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Kavi Gupta, Chicago. Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Can you describe how the names are organized?

The whole point of the work was to simply change the list from a value ranking to a non-judgmental and enormous list. The names are in alphabetical order. I’m not at all anti-technology, although I am a bit of a Luddite, but one of the downsides of the information age is that it’s so easy to find out precisely your “value” with a click of a button.  This is of course not exclusive to artists.

Did anything about the list surprise you?

I got a touching email from an artist who I didn’t know. He thanked me for including him on the list. He was feeling depressed about his struggles as an artist but my piece made him feel like part of a community.

I need to add that the Artists Monument attempts to include all artists but this is a symbolic, utopian gesture. It would be impossible to include everyone who calls him- or herself an artist. It would be a real drag not to be on that monument.

ALL STORIES

Closing Time Uptown: Snapshots from the Whitney’s Final Night on Madison Avenue
Closing Time Uptown: Snapshots from the Whitney’s Final Night on Madison Avenue
Whitney News
Pinch Points: Joshua Rosenblatt on Installing Art, Uptown and Downtown
Pinch Points: Joshua Rosenblatt on Installing Art, Uptown and Downtown
Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Jeff Koons
Whitney Stories Video:
Jeff Koons

Exhibitions
Scott Rothkopf on Planning Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Scott Rothkopf on Planning Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Exhibitions
Interview: Kassel Jaeger and Akira Rabelais
Interview: Kassel Jaeger and Akira Rabelais
Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Christine Sun Kim
Whitney Stories Video:
Christine Sun Kim

The New Whitney
American Legends: Common Threads across Generations
American Legends: Common Threads across Generations
Exhibitions
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Cory Arcangel
Whitney Stories Video:
Cory Arcangel

The New Whitney
Interview: Flawless Sabrina, Zackary Drucker, and Elisabeth Sherman
Interview: Flawless Sabrina, Zackary Drucker, and Elisabeth Sherman
Exhibitions
Tony Tasset Opens Up the Artist List
Tony Tasset Opens Up the Artist List
Exhibitions
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Carter Foster
Whitney Stories Video:
Carter Foster

The New Whitney
Spring at the New Building Site: Swimming in the City
Spring at the New Building Site: Swimming in the City
The New Whitney
Whitney Stories Video:</br>Vincent Punch
Whitney Stories Video:
Vincent Punch

The New Whitney
Q&AWith the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Three
Q&AWith the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Three
Exhibitions
Q&A With the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Two
Q&A With the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Two
Exhibitions
Two of the Whitney’s Hoppers Keep the President Company in the Oval Office
Two of the Whitney’s Hoppers Keep the President Company in the Oval Office
Whitney News
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Renzo Piano
Whitney Stories Video:
Renzo Piano

The New Whitney
Q&A with the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part One
Q&A with the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part One
Exhibitions
In Memory: <br>Cecil Weekes, 1956-2013
In Memory:
Cecil Weekes, 1956-2013

Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video:</br>Larissa Gentile
Whitney Stories Video:
Larissa Gentile

The New Whitney
“Am I As Much As Being Seen?” Fred Wilson Collaborates with Whitney Teens
“Am I As Much As Being Seen?” Fred Wilson Collaborates with Whitney Teens
Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video: Fred Wilson
Whitney Stories Video: Fred Wilson
The New Whitney
Construction Continues on the Future Whitney
Construction Continues on the Future Whitney
The New Whitney
Exploring the Legacy of the Meatpacking District
Exploring the Legacy of the Meatpacking District
The New Whitney
Raising Spirits
Raising Spirits
Behind the Scenes
A Space Without Walls: T.J. Wilcox’s Studio, Photographed by Marco Anelli
A Space Without Walls: T.J. Wilcox’s Studio, Photographed by Marco Anelli
Exhibitions

Behind the Whitney Stories Video Series
Behind the Scenes
Welcome to Whitney Stories
Welcome to Whitney Stories
Whitney News
The Future Whitney In Progress
The Future Whitney In Progress
The New Whitney
Whitney Stories Video: Carol Mancusi-Ungaro
Whitney Stories Video: Carol Mancusi-Ungaro
The New Whitney
Conserving Franz Kline’s Mahoning
Conserving Franz Kline’s Mahoning
Behind the Scenes
Vlogging About Art: The Whitney Video Blog Project
Vlogging About Art: The Whitney Video Blog Project
Whitney News
Words on Walls: A Conversation with Tom Black
Words on Walls: A Conversation with Tom Black
Behind the Scenes
Cubes and Anarchy: An Installation
Cubes and Anarchy: An Installation
Exhibitions
Picturing Progress: Building the Future Whitney
Picturing Progress: Building the Future Whitney
The New Whitney
The Whitney Does D.I.Y. With Desert Island Comics
The Whitney Does D.I.Y. With Desert Island Comics
Whitney News
Mapping the Whitney in New York City
Mapping the Whitney in New York City
Behind the Scenes
Breaking Ground
Breaking Ground
The New Whitney
Choreographing Community
Choreographing Community
Whitney News
Into the Future with <span class="caps">CHERYL</span>
Into the Future with CHERYL
Exhibitions
Cory Arcangel Re-Blogs the Internet
Cory Arcangel Re-Blogs the Internet
Behind the Scenes