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Public Art Fund Announces Ryan Gander: The Happy Prince
Ryan Gander will create a project entitled The Happy Prince. Photo: Maarten Corbijn.

NEW YORK, NY.- Public Art Fund announced its commission of a new project by Ryan Gander entitled The Happy Prince, on view in Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park, September 15, 2010 - April 10, 2011. "Ryan Gander, one of the brightest young artists in Europe, has conceived a brilliant new work for one of New York's most prominent public spaces. Taking inspiration from Oscar Wilde's beloved children's story, The Happy Prince, Gander has transformed the parable of a noble statue into an arresting work of contemporary art," said Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund Director and Chief Curator. In conjunction with the Public Art Fund project, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will present a new commission by Gander in its Aye Simon Reading Room as part of the museum's Intervals series.

In Wilde's story, the Prince, a gilded and bejeweled statue standing atop a column, observes the daily suffering of his city's poor. One afternoon, he befriends a swallow, who he convinces to strip the jewels and gold from his body to distribute to the people, alleviating their misery. After helping the Prince, the swallow, who has grown increasingly cold with the onset of winter, dies at the Prince's feet, and the Prince, who is no longer covered in riches, is toppled from his place of honor by the Town Councillors who no longer deem him a fitting and beautiful statue for their town square.

In creating a work after Wilde's story, Gander follows in the footsteps of other notable artists who have drawn inspiration from literature. In the story, the image of the destroyed monument is never described but is left to the imagination; Gander's The Happy Prince captures the moment as a sculpture. Using a sophisticated casting process with glass-reinforced concrete, the artist depicts the scene of the fallen statue at life size. Like a romantic ruin, elements of the original statue remain visible: the Prince's heart, sword, and helmet, as well as the body of the dead swallow. As a reminder of the statue's former grandeur, the base of the column is still visible and protrudes through the surrounding debris. However, unlike the fragments of an actual ruin, Gander's work is one single, massive form. His work is not a literal illustration of Wilde's story so much as a representation of the ruin as an idea. We see that all the elements are made from the same material and that they belong to a whole. The artist presents not a ruin but a sculpture of a ruin.

A conceptual artist whose past works have included elements of architecture, language, typography, design, and city planning, Gander often weaves together narratives that grapple with the nature of art and object making, polemical ideas, and social norms. In The Happy Prince, he draws on Wilde's tale about a public monument as well as the history of sculpture and the urban context of New York City, to create a poetic and lyrical sculpture that re-imagines public art. Sited in Doris C. Freedman Plaza, the sculpture resonates with the surrounding civic monuments; it also invites comparisons between the inequalities of wealth in the gilded age of Wilde's fictional city and modern-day New York. If the writer's parable takes up the themes of privilege and charity, the artist overlays those with questions about the nature of public art and our contemporary experience of the monument. The Happy Prince is Ryan Gander's first public art commission.

Ryan Gander: Loose Associations
Ryan Gander will launch the fall 2010 Public Art Fund Talks series on Thursday, September 16 at 6:30pm with one of his celebrated Loose Associations presentations. In the form of a narrated PowerPoint presentation, the artist strings together a series of images, memories, facts, and histories in a hybrid performance-lecture. These intense and sometimes comedic presentations have taken place across Europe, most recently as part of Art Basel's new Art Parcours project.

All Public Art Fund Talks take place at The New School's John Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Tickets to a single talk are $10 or $20 to the full series of three. Students are admitted free. Tickets will become available in late summer. Public Art Fund Talks are organized by the Public Art Fund in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School.

Ryan Gander at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
As part of the museum's Intervals series, Gander has created a new, site-specific installation for the Aye Simon Reading Room, a small library and study space located on Rotunda Level 2. Here visitors will encounter a scene of apparent catastrophe that relates to Gander's ongoing exploration of the schism between the Dutch artists Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931), who ended their friendship and creative collaboration over a disagreement about the validity of the diagonal line as an element in abstract art. Fast-paced and modest in scale, Intervals is an experimental series at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum designed to reflect the spirit of today's most innovative practices. Conceived to take place in the interstices of the museum's exhibition spaces, in individual galleries, or beyond the physical confines of the building, the program invites a diverse range of artists to create new work for a succession of solo presentations. For more information, visit

Ryan Gander
Born in 1976 in Chester, United Kingdom, Ryan Gander received his BA from Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom (1999) and has undertaken graduate studies at Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht (2000) and Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam (2002), both in The Netherlands. Recent solo exhibitions include G-Tokyo 2010, Mori Art Center Gallery, Tokyo Japan, collaboration with Aurelien Froment, Los Angeles (2010); As it presents itself - Somewhere vague, Art Unlimited, Basel, Switzerland (2010); It's a right Heath Robinson affair (A stuttering exhibition in two parts), gbAgency and Kadist, Paris, France (2009); and Heralded as the New Black, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, United Kingdom, and South London Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2008-9). Group exhibitions include Production Site: The Artist's Studio Inside and Out, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2010); Manifesta 8, Mercia, Spain (2010); Chasing Napoleon, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2009); Space at Medium, Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL (2009); The Malady of Writing, MACBA, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain (2009); Younger than Jesus, New Museum, New York (2009); and Wouldn't It be Nice, Somerset House, London, Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich (2008) and Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva (2007). He is also the recent recipient of the Zurich Art Prize. Ryan Gander lives and works in London.

New York | Public Art Fund | "Ryan Gander: The Happy Prince" | Nicholas Baume |

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