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What is site-specific art?

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Contemporary art can be created and distributed in an almost endless number of ways. Some artworks are developed with certain relationships in mind. Works that have an especially close relationship to the location where they are installed are referred to as site-specific. Developed with their exact site in mind, these works significance and impact are closely linked to their location. If removed from that location, the work might survive as an object, but its meaning would be drastically altered. Many distinguished artists have worked on site-specific pieces, spending sometimes years working with local groups to build support for their work and passing governmental and regulatory hurdles to see their creations installed. Even so, some works are never realized. Christo and Jean Claude, who are represented in the Gund Gallery Collection, famously never completed some of their most ambitious projects. In fact, an entire section of their website is dedicated to these unrealized projects.

The Gallery is looking forward to acquiring a new site-specific work created especially for Kenyon College by the artist Richard Serra. This work will be the centerpiece of the College’s new West Quad complex, anchoring the green space at its center with a beautiful focal point designed to be seen from Middle Path. To learn more about the project, read the Kenyon College press release. We will provide more updates as plans progress. The final installation is scheduled for the summer of 2020.

Often times we refer to sculpture when talking about site-specific art, but performance art can be developed with a location in mind. For example, the dance performances students give in Gund Gallery exhibition spaces each semester are site-specific works.

Image: Christo & Jeanne-Claude Christo (American, b. Bulgaria 1935); Jeanne-Claude (French, 1935-2009). Wrapped Reichstag, Project for West Berlin, 1977, 1977.
Pastel and charcoal on paper. 42 x 65 inches. Gund Gallery Collection; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Graham Gund ’63.

 
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