Streams

An 'Unreal' Statue Arrives in Madison Square Park

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Peeking through the blooming dogwoods in Madison Square Park is 44-foot-high white statue of a head. The sculpture, created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, is made of fiberglass resin and is modeled after the Greek myth of Echo. 

The statue, called "Echo," wears a serene expression on its face and seems to be a magnet for tots and camera phones. Children played around the statue on Thursday while nearly every passerby on his or her lunch break stopped to snap a photo. 

"Even the people who live here love it," said neighborhood resident Lisa Hin. She said that during the three-day installation process, she had noticed people escaping the office to snap photos and lunch near the statue.

The most common response to the statue, though seems unlikely for a structure that is tall enough to be seen from nearly every corner of the park. 

"It doesn't look like it's real," said Emily Kunhardt, echoing the opinions of several visitors checking out the sculpture. "It looks like you're seeing something that's not there." 

Regardless of impressions, Plensa's sculpture has been installed in the park and will be there through August 14. Check out a slideshow of photos of the sculpture below.

Julia Furlan/WNYC
"In real life it looks like a statue and then on the camera it looks like it's fake," remarked Thomas Panlilio who was visiting from Los Angeles.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
"For something that big to seem transparent when it's clearly quite solid is really astonishing," said Emily Kunhardt, seen here reading the sculpture's descriptor.
The Madison Square Park Conservancy rolled out what seemed like a green carpet (of grass) for the statue. It took three full days to install.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
The Madison Square Park Conservancy rolled out what seemed like a green carpet (of grass) for the statue. It took three full days to install.
The statue was particularly popular with kids, who ran around the statue almost constantly.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
The statue was particularly popular with kids, who ran around the statue almost constantly.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
"It seems to be moving despite the fact that it's obviously a statue," one bystander commented while snapping a photo.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
"She looks Asian," said Tammy Panlilio, seen here imitating the statue's placid expression. "And I should know, because I'm Asian."
Julia Furlan/WNYC
"It's nice because the kids play hide and seek," said Chandra Rattan, seen here with her charge Omar Baca.
Toddler Eva Dawson enjoyed her time at the statue with her parents.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
Toddler Eva Dawson enjoyed her time at the statue with her parents.
There was a perpetual crowd of tourists and New Yorkers alike.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
There was a perpetual crowd of tourists and New Yorkers alike.
The statue has a braid going down the back.  Plensa modeled it after the nine-year-old daughter of a restaurant owner in his hometown of Barcelona.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
The statue has a braid going down the back. Plensa modeled it after the nine-year-old daughter of a restaurant owner in his hometown of Barcelona.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
"Echo" can be seen easily from outside the park. The color and size distinguish it from the Spring greenery around it.

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Comments [4]

Leibosan from Astoria, NY

I just saw "Echo" today and also loved it--and also felt it looked 2 dimensional. You can't get close enough to see--I wonder if the chin and ears are in fact sculpted, but the face is some sort of photo or painting affixed to the front of the flat surface. Would love to know if anyone knows how it was made. And what a pity that it's only here for a short visit, instead of becoming a resident of the city and the park!

Jul. 31 2011 05:00 PM
Benjamin Hemric

P.S. to my 8:40 p.m. comment above --

Please forgive the typos (e.g., "it's" instead of "its," etc.), of course, but also wanted to mention that the recent "sculpture" of hanging lights that formed a picture of moving people was also pretty "neat."

So it seems to me that the public art program in Madison Square Park is really on a roll!

Benjamin Hemric
May 11, 2011, 9:00 p.m.

May. 11 2011 09:00 PM
Benjamin Hemric

Although I am oftentimes unimpressed by contemporary public art, I've been captivated by this sculpture since the moment I first saw it while it was still underconstruction. I've looked it up on the internet a few times to learn more about it -- which is how I happened upon this site and your interesting article.

Part of it's appeal to me (aside from the fact that it's elegant and beautiful to begin with) may be related to what others are calling its "unrealness" -- although I've been thinking along slightly differently lines. What struck me from the first was that it seems hard to tell if this "structure" is three-dimentional or not. It almost looks like it could be a large, flat billboard that has been "papered over" with a photograph of a woman's face. And even as you walk around it, it still seems "flat." So the apparent lack of a three-dimensional quality in a very large three-dimensional object is quite startling -- and tantalizing -- especially since sculpture is "supposed" (according to art theory 101) to be three-dimensional and not flat like a painting or mural.

I'd like to learn more about this sculpture, and whether this flatness (or "unreality") is part of what the artist was getting at (here, or in any of his other works) or just a happy accident with this sculpture.

Another "fun" aspect of this flatness, at least for me, is its location in Madison Square Park -- where the most famous building located on the park, the "Flatiron Building" is one that is also happens to be famous for being surreally "flat." Again, I wonder how much of this was intentional, and how much a happy accident?

Also, nice to hear that others sense that this is an unusally popular sculpture. I was tempted to ask some park personnel about this, but chickened out. As far as sculptures go, it seems to me that this is a "blockbuster hit."

Benjamin Hemric
Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 8:40 p.m.

May. 11 2011 08:42 PM
orbitstones.com from California

why called Echo?

May. 06 2011 05:55 PM

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