The entire façade of the front side of the Aspen Art Museum will be covered next summer with an inflated vinyl and nylon wrap and LED lights to illuminate the imagery of a mountain landscape.
Aspen City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the museum’s application for a temporary use permit for the art installation for as many as 180 days.
The installation is planned to be up April 25 thru Oct. 23, 2022. The exhibit will be comprised of a billboard supporting a commercial grade vinyl wrap, air blowers and LED lights, according to a presentation by city planner Michelle Bonfils Thibeault.
It will require two weeks prior to April 25 to fabricate and install the exhibit and another two weeks to be disassembled after Oct. 23.
The museum has invited 81-year-old Italian artist Gaetano Pesce, considered one of the world’s most influential living designers, to create a site-specific commission for its building façade, partly funded through the Italian Ministry of Culture.
Pesce’s work will be created with the intent of evoking the natural shape of the mountains as an iconic symbol of the city of Aspen and its immediate surroundings.
The artwork will be constructed with a flat billboard style backdrop that serves as the sky, as well as inflated sun and mountain components.
The material will not protrude farther than 18” from the building’s façade, nor extend beyond the building’s height.
Programmable LEDs will be used for the stars and sun, the latter of which will be translucent fabric with internal illumination.
It’s expected that the installation will be turned off just after dusk.
“The lighting perception of the building is going to seem different,” Bonfils Thibeault said. “The building without the sheen has a transparent quality to it given the basket pattern.”
Three small blowers, using about 500 watts of power with the daily consumption around 36KW, will be used for the inflation of the piece and placed under a stairwell on the building’s first floor, on the west side.
The blowers have a volume similar to a window air conditioner with decibel levels within the city’s rules, and it’s envisioned that the artwork will be inflated 24 hours, seven days a week.
Sound boxes around the blowers will be employed if they become too loud for people in the area.
Council members expressed their concerns about lighting, noise and energy consumption but signed off on the museum working with the city’s community development staff to develop a plan to mitigate those issues.
“I think this is tremendous and you know, art is supposed to evoke a reaction, the positives and negatives of what this is about and look to be different,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said. “I think our town and myself would be honored to have it, and I think we should invite our Italian sister city’s delegation to come over while it’s up next summer.”
Pesce’s first trip to the United States was to Aspen in 1971 for the International Design Conference, and he has been back every year since, said Nicola Less, the Nancy and Bob Magoon director of the Aspen Art Museum.
“We are very excited that this will be his last substantial project (of his life),” she said.
Luis Yllanes, the museum’s chief operating officer, told council that the scale of the project will have national and international significance while being very relevant and engaging for the local community.
“Everything from the imagery that you can see on the façade, which is the landscape that reflects the mountains that are here in Aspen,” he said. “We feel that this will be great and exciting for local residents and returning visitors who are used to seeing something outside of the museum before they actually come into the building.”
Local artist and gallery owner Sam Harvey spoke in favor of the application Tuesday with some of those same thoughts.
“I think about how dynamic it makes our community and how much attention it will bring to our community in adding the city’s name on an international and national scale,” he said.
Councilman John Doyle said as an artist himself, he appreciates public art and understands the impact the installation could have on Aspen.
“I think it’s super important for communities around the world to just be able to see art without having to pay to go into a museum, or in our case we don’t have to pay,” he said. “I’m excited … that this artist is going to come here and display his work, and lately with all the talk about Aspen staying relevant, this is what keeps Aspen relevant.”