A new agreement between the National Geographic Society and American University will replace the £ 1m art installation in Washington, DC, which was once marked for demolition.
National Geographic executives declined to interview, but said they were “satisfied” with plans to move Elling Zimmerman’s iconic rock and water installation “Malabal” from the site to the university campus. Did. The agreement ends the blunder that began almost three years ago when society told Zimmerman that she no longer wanted her sculptures built in 1984.
“This is part of the history of landscaping,” said Jack Rasmussen, director of the American University Museum, who is currently responsible for the protection of “Malabal.” “The female sculptors of the 1970s and 1980s who were doing this? It’s groundbreaking.”
According to architect David Charles, who chose Zimmerman to create the installation a few blocks north of the White House, members of the association’s board of directors applauded when the plans for “Malabal” were announced. rice field. Zimmerman, 76, named her work after the fictional cave in EM Forster’s novel A Passage to India.
However, in 2019, National Geographic, now largely owned by The Walt Disney Company, embarked on a plan to build a new entrance pavilion and a rentable roof garden. The “Malabar” decided by society was in the way.
The plan was subject to the city’s Historical Preservation Review Board, as part of the site is located in the Historic District. After the jury gave the project “conceptual approval” in 2019, Zimmerman assumed that her original artwork was destined. “I would never have faced Disney,” she said.
However, supporters of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit organization, have made “Malabal” a cause celebrity. More than 20 architects, art critics and museum leaders have sent letters to the jury to urge members to save “Malabal”.
Despite opposition from a lawyer hired by National Geographic, the jury returns to another hearing to society for failing to provide sufficient information about “Malabal” when submitting the schematic. I ordered. In March, National Geographic pledged to preserve Zimmerman’s artwork by relocating up to 250,000 pounds of granite stone each, rather than redesigning the expansion.
The new home announced this week, American University, is just 6.4 km away. The location is now an oval lawn bordered by a crepe myrtle and a park bench, opposite the University’s Katzen Art Center. The “Malabal” granite stones can be seen from Massachusetts Avenue, just north of Ward Circle, one of the district’s most mobile roundabouts.
“I’m happy that it’s still in Washington,” Zimmerman said, adding that he is planning a new composition of stones and pools. Instead of one long rectangular fake stream, the fountain is crescent-shaped. It is not yet clear if it will be drained in the winter, as in the case of her lock-like fountain in Tribeca’s Cap Soot Park.
In a statement, Charles A. Birnbaum, chairman of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, said, “I’m disappointed that’Malabal’isn’t staying there, but praises the society for working with Zimmerman in this resolution. I will do it. “
For Zimmerman, the success of “Malabal” has led to public art committees around the world, including the first World Trade Center bombing monument and an installation commemorating the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, another work, welcomed by her critics, was recently demolished in San Francisco, and she remains concerned about the fate of public art.
Still, Rasmussen said he hopes the story of “Malabal” will be a “moment to be taught,” starting with an interdisciplinary exhibition that follows the construction and relocation of the Katzen Arts Center.
The excavation of “Malabal” began earlier this month with the goal of installing the work at American University in the summer of 2022. At that point, Zimmerman will also announce a new name for the artwork. “It won’t be more than’Malabal’,” she said. “It will be something new.”