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NYT's Olafur Eliasson's Art Car

NYT's Olafur Eliasson's Art Car

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Published by LauraNovak
A brilliant artist, an original concept and a really fun story to report on - even if I was bundled in blankets!
A brilliant artist, an original concept and a really fun story to report on - even if I was bundled in blankets!

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Published by: LauraNovak on Feb 01, 2010
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03/09/2011

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12/8/09 1:21 PM‘Objet d’Arctic,’ 2007, Artist Known - New York TimesPage 1 of 3http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/automobiles/autospecial/24FREEZE.html?_r=1&ref=autospecial&oref=slogin
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Heidi Schumann for The New York Times
Heidi Schumann for The New York Times
The artist Olafur Eliasson had ahydrogen-powered BMW racecar coated with ice for a show at the SanFrancisco Museum of Modern Art.
Objet d’Arctic,’ 2007, Artist Know n
By LAURA NOVAKPublished: October 24, 2007
S AN FRANCISCOON the second floor of theSan FranciscoMuseumof Modern Art, thereis an 800-square-foot walk-infreezer setat 14 degrees Fahrenheit.The sole entity inside is aBMW  hydrogen-powered racecar stripped toits frame, draped in ice and glowinglike a strange arctic insect.This frozen objet d’art, a reflection onthe conflicts between globalclimatechangeand the automotive industry, is an unusualcollaborationbetween an Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson,and BMW. A four-month exhibition, it coincides with theSan Francisco auto show in November and is the only  American stop for the work, called “Your MobileExpectations: BMW H2R Project,” 2007.“If you imagine that we have an ice age running towardsus at high speed apparently, this is what all our cars aregoing to be looking like, whether we want it or not withinour lifetime,” said Mr. Eliasson, taking a break fromchecking on the freezing process a week before the show opened in September.Mr. Eliasson is the 16th artist invited to work with a BMW since 1975, following the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, DavidHockney and Andy Warhol. Most of the painted cars racedin the Le Mans 24-hour race in France. But this time, Mr.Eliasson was given a hydrogen-powered racecar to play  with, one that can go 140 miles an hour and that emits water vapor rather than pollutants.The exhibition might be the most progressive advertisement BMW has for its corporatepush toward sustainability and alternative fuels. By the year’s end, the company says itplans to place 100 of its plush Hydrogen 7 Series models with BMW enthusiasts, like theactor Will Ferrell, throughout the world, including 25 in the United States.Fueling is the greatest hurdle for hydrogen-powered cars, the company says. Only onesuch fueling station that can accommodate the H7 exists in the United States, in Oxnard, 
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12/8/09 1:21 PM‘Objet d’Arctic,’ 2007, Artist Known - New York TimesPage 2 of 3http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/automobiles/autospecial/24FREEZE.html?_r=1&ref=autospecial&oref=slogin
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Calif., while another is being retrofitted. BMW plans to put a mobile one in Washington,D.C.Mr. Eliasson shelved brushes and cans of acrylic paint in favor of stripping the car of its body panels and mechanical guts, leaving the frame, steering wheel and four tires intact.He fabricated two layers of translucent steel “skin” with reflective stainless-steel tiles setinside. He then coated the frame in ice, illuminating the car from the inside with lights.“This is not being put forward as a prescription for anything, but rather as a kind of challenge,” said Henry Urbach, curator of architecture and design at the museum, who brought the show to San Francisco.The H2R, he added, “is a very forward-thinking car, and what Olafur has done is madean anti-car car.”It took a day for 30 people to maneuver the artwork into place. Museum staff membersand artists from Mr. Eliasson’s Berlin studio rolled the skeleton into the custom-madefreezer before beginning the surreal task of soaking it in 260 gallons of water.To do this, engineers ran 300 feet of hose connected to an outside spigot up two flightsof stairs. The water was cycled through two barrels filled with ice — the chilled watercreated more humidity in the freezer, Mr. Eliasson said — and an ionizer to remove air bubbles for smoother ice.The eventual dismantling is discussed with less enthusiasm; the reality of 260 gallons of meltwater provokes nervous laughter and talk of sump pumps and wet vacuums. Annette Ueberlein, a freelance art producer in Berlin who has worked on the project fortwo years, spent eight hours a day for three days spraying a fine mist of the chilled wateruntil a perfect layer of ice hung from the frame.She was bundled in a North Icelandic brand jacket and boots and kept her blood flowing by stepping carefully on the extremely slippery floor while listening to her boyfriend’sGerman rock band on her iPod.The freezer must stay on round the clock for four months, so museum officials resolvedthe “green” problem with its regular utility, Constellation NewEnergy. The company  bought and then donated renewable energy certificates from a California geothermalplant to match the kilowatts that will be used for the show.The museum has guards at the freezer’s entrance and exit. For the faint of heart, 50fleece blankets hang on pegs in the hallway. After all, as Mr. Urbach said, the exhibitionis “about absolute stasis, silence, frozenness, as well as about the future of motion.”But it is also about drawing visitors. Officials expect 120,000 people to view the car andthe extended survey of Mr. Eliasson’s work also on display. (Only 20 people will beallowed in the freezer at a time.)“This is not meant as a political statement,” said Jack Pitney, vice president formarketing and product development for BMW of North America, who called the car breathtaking when he got his first tour of the freezer with Mr. Eliasson. “But if this car begins to change people’s perceptions of hydrogen as a potential future power source,then that’s a good thing.”It can’t hurt if the words “hydrogen” and “BMW” will roll off people’s tongues morefluidly once they stop shivering.“This exhibition not only carries an important message about how we need to rethink the way we drive and use our natural resources to support our wishes,” Mr. Urbach said,“but it will also provide an experience of wonder, almost like a journey.”
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Nostromo10 is new to Scribd. Read his Man Who Went to Museums. Wonder if his protagonist would have liked this?
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