Standing before Thomas Hirschhorn’s “Concordia, Concordia” exhibition, at the Gladstone Gallery in New York City, it’s easy to feel a little off-balance.
The Swiss artist’s gargantuan spectacle, a roughly 25-foot-by-32-foot-by-52-foot recreation of Costa Concordia’s casino after the ship listed, is on display through Oct. 20.
Concordia struck a rock off the coast of Giglio, a small Italian island, on January 13, 2012, and consequently listed. An evacuation was required, and 32 people died. The ship remains partially submerged, and removal efforts will get underway in 2013.
Hirschhorn’s piece depicts a slanted room in which wall is floor and floor is wall; chairs, lifejackets, dishes and decorations come cascading to your feet from a mountain of debris. A grand piano juts out from the side, bolted to what was the floor.
In an artist’s statement that accompanies the exhibition, Hirschhorn said he was inspired by photos of the inside of the wrecked ship, which he believed showed its “cumbersome inutility.”
“I was struck by this apocalyptic upside-down vision of the banal and cheap ‘nice, fake and cozy’ interior of the overturned ship,” Hirschhorn said.
Liz Armstrong, a Hirschhorn fan who came with two friends to see the exhibit, said she was impressed by the piece’s size and attention to detail.
“You feel like you’re on the boat,” Armstrong said. “You feel tilted.”
Among the debris: two televisions with flashing images of newscasts — the exhibition’s only moving pieces — and scattered pages of an English translation of Marx’s “Das Kapital.”
Armstrong said she wasn’t surprised by the political message.
“Hirschhorn always has a lot of politics and government tied into what he does,” she said.
In his artist’s statement, Hirschhorn referenced the 2008 financial bailout of American banks.
“I want to do a Big work to show that the saying ‘Too Big to Fail’ no longer makes any sense. On the contrary, when something is Too Big, it must Fail – this is what I want to give Form to,” Hirschhorn wrote.
As she walked out of the gallery, tourist Sherry Nathan said the political commentary was confusing.
“It’s cool to see a piece of art that’s that big, but I’m not sure I get the point,” Nathan said.
No matter one’s feelings about the work, everyone seemed struck by its size.
“It’s tremendous,” said Glori Cohen, a New York City-based art advisor. “You can’t forget it.”
What do you think? Is this art? Does it straddle the line between highbrow and lowbrow? Leave your comments below.
Read more about the Concordia disaster here.
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