A 3D art installation was approved by Aspen City Council on Tuesday to take over the northern face of the Aspen Art Museum next summer.
The installation will pay homage to Aspen’s mountain landscape while allowing museum visitors the option of viewing the piece without entering the building. It was created by Italian artist Gaetano Pesce, 81, who visited Aspen the first time he came to the U.S. and fell in love with it.
“The special thing is that he came to Aspen in 1971 and it was his first trip to America,” said Museum Director Nicola Lees. “And he’s lived in America ever since he came to Aspen, so Aspen is part of his love story for America, and this is sort of a coming-home project for him.”
The installation will recreate the northern side of the museum on the Hyman Avenue side, complete with an inflatable sun and mountains that emerge 18 inches from the building’s walls. The sun, moon and stars above the peaks will also light up.
The museum staff hopes to open the installation on April 25, 2022 and remove it on Oct. 23.
Two local artists also spoke to the council about why they were supportive of the project.
One said she and other artists feel that the outdoor installation makes it more accessible to those who aren’t interested in going inside the building.
Another said he was excited for the international attention the artist and the project will bring to Aspen.
While the council ultimately voted unanimously to approve the installation, they had concerns about noise, light and energy use. The art museum is located across the street from residential neighborhoods, and council members were concerned about noise and light creating a disturbance after museum hours.
Museum Chief Operating Officer Luis Yllanes said that the hope is to run the LED lights and inflators until 9 p.m. and then shut everything down for the night. He added that the museum is proud to run a very efficient facility and can reduce its energy consumption in other areas while the installation is active. Project fabricator Bryan Kinney said that it is also possible to soundproof the inflators.
Council member Rachel Richards said that moving forward with soundproofing the project would ease her concerns about noise, and otherwise she was supportive of the project.
“I think that this is tremendous,” she said. “Art is supposed to invoke a reaction, positive or negative, what is this about, what could be different? And I think our town and myself would be honored to have a presentation like this.”
Mayor Torre was also supportive of allowing the museum flexibility to make the project successful while also adhering to city land use codes and an energy plan. Museum staff agreed to turn the lights and inflators off 30 minutes after dusk each night and follow the city’s energy plan and land use code.
Pesce has been working with the museum for more than a year to create this project, Lees said, drawing inspiration directly from Aspen’s landscape. The project was also awarded a grant in the amount of 100,000 euros by the Italian Ministry of Culture. Lees said the museum feels very passionate about the project and is excited to showcase Pesce’s last substantial project as an artist.
“It’s more about Gaetano’s legacy,” Yllanes said. “And really, for somebody who’s in their 80s to still be producing artwork at this scale really will help to put not just Aspen but the museum itself and the town on the map.”