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Public Art Fund will Present Olafur Eliasson's The New York City Waterfalls in New York
Olafur Eliasson, New York City Waterfalls (artist’s rendering): Brooklyn Bridge(Brooklyn), 2008; © Olafur Eliasson, 2008. Courtesy Public Art Fund.

NEW YORK.- The New York City Waterfalls, a major new work of public art by internationally acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson, will be on view in New York's East River from late June through mid-October 2008. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, the project consists of four monumental, man-made waterfalls temporarily installed at sites along the waterfront in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Governors Island: one on the Brooklyn anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge, one between Piers 4 and 5 below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, one in Lower Manhattan at Pier 35 north of the Manhattan Bridge, and one on the north shore of Governors Island. The 90- to 120-foot-tall Waterfalls are erected on the shoreline and have been designed to protect water quality and aquatic life. They will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, and will be lit after sunset.

"Large scale public art is a part of what makes New York City the cultural center of the world. It excites New Yorkers and encourages visitors from around the world to experience a once in a lifetime moment,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The Waterfalls exhibition is the next chapter in the City’s great cultural legacy – and we are exceptionally thrilled that internationally-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson has chosen New York City as his latest canvas.”

Public Art Fund is a non-profit art organization that has been presenting contemporary art in New York since 1977, and The New York City Waterfalls is the organization’s most ambitious project to date. “For 30 years, the Public Art Fund has been bringing artists and New York City together by presenting innovative art projects for all to see,” said Susan K. Freedman, President of Public Art Fund. “The New York City Waterfalls takes this tradition to a new level and exemplifies our commitment to working with artists who stretch the limits of public art and the forms it might take.”

The New York City Waterfalls, sited in the historic New York Harbor, a gateway to America for nearly four centuries, will showcase New York’s natural environment alongside the City’s industrial and commercial landscape. “In developing The New York City Waterfalls, I have tried to work with today’s complex notion of public spaces,” said Eliasson. “The Waterfalls appear in the midst of the dense social, environmental, and political tissue that makes up the heart of New York City. They will give people the possibility to reconsider their relationships to these spectacular surroundings, and I hope they will evoke experiences that are both individual and enhance a sense of collectivity."

Born in Copenhagen in 1967, Eliasson is considered one of his generation’s most influential artists. Throughout his career, he has sought to evoke immersive environments with decidedly man-made tools. He takes inspiration from natural phenomena such as light, wind, fog, and water, as well as science, architecture, and the built environment. He is perhaps best known for The weather project (2003) at Tate Modern in London, a giant sun made of 200 yellow lamps, mirrors, and mist that transformed the museum’s massive Turbine Hall and drew over 2 million visitors during its five-month installation. While his works are informed by the earthwork and land art movements of the 1970s with their monumental scales and eco-politics, Eliasson pushes his work a step further, into the often paradoxical place where man’s ingenuity strives to mimic nature’s unique power. With their sensuous appeal, Eliasson’s installations invite viewers into private moments of discovery and place them into the public realm. Through his interventions, Eliasson brings mindfulness into public encounters, returning us, ultimately, to the mind itself.

The New York City Waterfalls is being constructed with building elements that are ubiquitous throughout New York. Actual construction scaffolding forms the backbone of the Waterfalls, and pumps will cycle water from the East River to the top of each structure before it falls back into the River. “Eliasson's waterfalls emerge from his consideration of the specific conditions, particularly historic and architectural, of the physical environments surrounding them. He has found a way to integrate the spectacular beauty of nature into the urban landscape on a dramatic scale,” said Rochelle Steiner, Director of Public Art Fund and curator of The New York City Waterfalls. Many artists have likened the height, power, and reflectivity of New York City’s skyscrapers to massive urban waterfalls; Lucio Fontana wrote that “The skyscrapers of glass look like great cascades of water / That fall from the sky” upon first visiting the city in the 1970s.

Public Art Fund has joined with government agencies and environmental organizations to develop resources for young people and adults to enjoy the Waterfalls. Partners include the City’s Department of Education, Department of Environmental Protection and the US National Park Service, and environmental groups including Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA), New York Restoration Project (NYRP), as well as Urban Assembly’s New York Harbor School, a public school that engages students through the study of the marine culture, history, and environment of New York City and its surrounding waters. Programming will include guides for enjoying and learning about the Waterfalls and New York City’s riverfront, as well as classroom lessons for students and activities for summer camp groups. These materials will examine the waterfront through the topics of art, history, environmental responsibility, aquatic life, ecology, water conservation, and other related subjects, and can be downloaded from in June.

The Waterfalls will be visible by land and boat, and because of their proximity to one another, viewers will be able to see multiple Waterfalls from various vantage points in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Governors Island. Dedicated boat journeys to view the Waterfalls, organized by the Public Art Fund in partnership with Circle Line Downtown (, will leave from Pier 16 in Manhattan and will provide up-close views of the Waterfalls. Circle Line Downtown will provide free and discounted 30-minute trips daily for the public. The Governors Island Ferry, which will run every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the duration of the project, and the Staten Island Ferry, both of which are always free, will also provide views of the Waterfalls at Governors Island and beneath the Brooklyn Promenade. Recommended viewing sites and bike routes along the waterfront will be made available on free maps provided on the Waterfalls website,, and distributed throughout the City.

The Waterfalls have been designed to be sensitive to the environment, protecting fish and aquatic life by filtering the water through intake pools suspended in the river beneath each structure. The Waterfalls will also run on “green power”– electricity generated from renewable resources – an initiative organized through partnership with Consolidated Edison and Con Ed Solutions and will be lit with LED lights. “The Waterfalls will help a new generation of New Yorkers discover our great waterfront and encourage us all to become stewards for its continued revitalization and lasting protection,” said Riverkeeper President Alex Matthiessen. “The project itself is a model of green design and, importantly, is protective of key aquatic habitat.”

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