It's Your Art: The NYC Waterfalls

Andréa Fernandes

Since June 26, four massive man-made waterfalls have been in operation in New York City. The waterfalls were designed by world-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson. There is less than a month left to view the installations, which are only up through October 13.

1. Erecting four 90- to 120-foot waterfalls along the East River was no small feat. Costing $15.5 million, the waterfalls required 64,000 square feet of scaffolding and more than 20 permits from various agencies. With such work involved, it's no wonder Olafur Eliasson employs a small army of helpers: his "laboratory" has about 15 engineers, architects, and technicians on staff, in addition to the approximate 30 artists, assistants, and mathematicians on his payroll.

2. Eliasson's life has been remarkably culturally diverse. The artist is from Denmark, but is of Icelandic heritage, and spent his summers as a youth in Iceland. He speaks four languages fluently, though "not flawlessly," and commutes to his studio in Berlin from Copenhagen. With his art historian wife, Eliasson has two adopted children from Ethiopia.

3. The NYC waterfalls are located at four of the few locations deemed logistically and environmentally possible for the project: beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, between Piers 4 and 5, Governor's Island, and Pier 35. Still, the falls were destroying plants along the promenade, according to the Brooklyn Heights Association. The city has thus scaled back the hours of operation for the falls, which draw 35,000 gallons of water per minute.

4. As a teenager, Eliasson learned a few breakdancing moves from a friend's brother. Soon, he was spending his days practicing; he recalls, ""¦for months and months I just moved around like a robot." After forming a group with two friends, Eliasson began competing internationally and became a Scandinavian breakdancing champion.

5. Eliasson is a humble artist, shying away from the celebrity-driven publicity that focuses on the artist instead of the artwork. Many of his installations are interactive to some degree and often have titles that convey the viewer's importance ("Eye See You" and "Take Your Time," for example). When the waterfalls began operating, Eliasson said, ""¦it's not my work of art anymore. It's your art. It's really about the public. This is the moment it becomes a part of the city."

Larger versions of the waterfall images are available here. Fans should check out Eliasson's Web site; the waterfalls' site and visitor's map; WNET's documentary, "The Waterfalls: Making Public Art;" New York mag's details on how the falls work; online Eliasson exhibits from the MoMA and SFMOMA; the MoMA's interview with Eliasson; and this video of "The Weather Project" at the Tate Modern. Current Exhibitions featuring "Feel Art Again" artists:New York City Waterfalls (New York City: through October 13, 2008)Modern Masters, feat. Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso (Savannah, GA: through September 22, 2008)Pat's Quilts, feat. P. Buckley Moss (Waynesboro, VA: through September 30, 2008)Sol LeWitt (Mountainville, NY: through November 15, 2008)José Clemente Orozco: The Graphic Work (Boca Raton, FL: September 17 through December 7, 2008)Sol LeWitt: Drawing Series... (Beacon, NY: through September 2009) Special thanks to ARTINFO for the exhibition details. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions. Or join the debate on the definition of art.