'The Jersey', 9th Avenue & 39th Street, courtesy PaceWildenstein
Some things get better with age and some things just get a bit stranger. David Byrne of Talking Heads fame is a case in point. Since the 1990s the Scottish-American musician has been dabbling in the art world. The results are extraordinary and a long way from Talking Heads' creative output, though no less brilliant.
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Experimental installation work is his bag. Earlier this year, Byrne took over the Battery Maritime Building, a century-old ferry terminal in Manhattan and converted the entire structure into a giant musical instrument. He hooked up every element of the building – pipes, radiators, columns, walls – to an old pipe organ and called the installation ‘Playing the Building’. Visitors could tap the walls and run their hands over the radiators and as the title suggests, play the building.
In collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation his latest project is a series of nine bike racks installed on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Responding to his own love of cycling, Byrne submitted ideas to the DOT of graphic shapes, inspired by specific locations throughout the city: the Ladies Mile (a high heel), the Villager (a dog), the Wall Street (a dollar sign) and so on.
The functioning racks came about when Byrne was chosen to be on the panel for an open competition held by the DOT for people to design novelty bike racks. Byrne himself sent in his series of drawings as examples and the DOT replied saying they’d happily install them. The designs were realised in the same square-shaped piping that the regular NYC bike racks are made from so people would identify them as bike racks rather than public art.
The racks have become minor landmarks in themselves. Up for just a year, they’re then going to be sold through Pace/MacGill Gallery, who represent Byrne’s artistic endeavours. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to seeing what the man bringing a new meaning to the term recording artist might have up his sleeve next.