Artist: Lance Fung (Curator)
Location: Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
Year of completion: 2012
Researcher: Laine Bergeson

Even before Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, Atlantic City had seen brighter days. With very high unemployment and very little clean, safe public space, the city hummed along the way it had for many decades—by pouring resources into what it was known for: shopping, gambling, and nightlife.

The tides started to turn several years ago. With growing demand for more public space, the city commissioned curator Lance Fung to create Artlantic, a series of temporary art exhibitions that utilizes vacant spaces for art installations by various artists, among them several of international renown and two until-then-unknown local artists. The artists worked in a variety of different mediums, including landscape design, garden design, architecture, sculpture, and quirky installations such as glow-in-the-dark light boxes. The idea was to create open, art-filled space for everyone: locals, tourists, city employees.

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“Since we opened the week after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, the locals have embraced Artlantic Park,” says Fung. “To date we have created three separate park-like locations, and they are packed spring through fall.”

Beyond giving residents beautiful open spaces to enjoy, the project has introduced new artwork to over 30 million tourists each summer, most of whom have very little knowledge of contemporary art. Some of the marquee works included in the project are: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s playful pirate ship titled Devil’s Rage. The “ship” rises out of the ground, evoking both the sunken ships that line the ocean floor off the New Jersey coast and the “booty” associated with the Atlantic City gambling industry. Visitors are encouraged to walk in and around the half-buried vessel.

Artist Robert Barry installed an illuminated text piece, comprised of 23 inspiring words, including “Wonder,” “Glorious,” and “Possible.” The piece is meant to stand in dialogue with the bold, historic signage that lines the city’s iconic boardwalk. Kiki Smith’s lush garden—in part an homage to her sister who died of AIDS—is entirely composed of red plants. This crimson-colored garden surrounds Smith’s bronze sculpture, Her, in which a woman cradles a doe.

Environmental artist John Roloff’s large-scale labyrinthine sculpture is part stage, part puzzle, and part optical illusion. “The abundance of photos taken at the Roloff installation is astounding,” says Fung. “It's rewarding when I see people walking around and reading all of the didactic signs in front of each artwork.”

One of the elements that separates Artlantic from many other public art projects was the actual artwork selection process. Fung was asked to curate an exhibition of his liking — and with no restrictions, something virtually unheard of in the public art realm where a variety of different stakeholders often weigh in.

“Curatorially, it was no different than curating a show at the MoMA, but very different than selecting a work of art for a public space, says Fung. “It seems subtle, but it made a huge difference and also resulted in a different kind of public art.” Reviews of Artlantic, which have appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, among many other publications, “do not discuss [the installation] in the context of public art,” notes Fung, “ but just as great contemporary art.”

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency