Sunday, May 11, 2014

Old Westbury Scandal

Aby Rosen, real estate developer, art collector and owner of the A. Conger Goodyear house in Old Westbury has stirred up controversy after the installation of a 33 foot tall Damien Hirst statue titled The Virgin Mother on the estate grounds.

The mayor of Old Westbury, Fred Carillo, has called it "out of character with the neighborhood" because the neighbors "have to preserve their bucolic views".  This is the same mayor who has overseen the wholesale destruction of anything historic in Old Westbury.  Frankly I am shocked that this guy is the mayor, but now I understand why Old Westbury looks like it does.  

Leaving aside the fact that Aby Rosen saved the Goodyear house and chose to make it a place to house part of his art collection, any neighborhood should be lucky to have a resident like that in their community who could afford a Damien Hirst statue that some people are lucky enough to see from their houses.  How anyone can claim this statue is "graphic" given what is on basic cable and the internet in this day and age is truly insane (I see more graphic stuff walking down Sixth Avenue in Manhattan).  Clearly there are residents of Old Westbury who have little appreciation for art, including the guy who calls himself the mayor.  

My suggestion to them is this: Old Westbury has been butchered by developers in coordination with the Village of Old Westbury for years.  The notion that this statue destroys bucolic views is utterly absurd.  What has destroyed Old Westbury's bucolic views are the actions of Fred Carillo.  If the statue really offends you...don't look at it.  This is a Nontroversy.

Click HERE to see the story on CBS News and HERE for the Daily News story.

And just for a bit of historical perspective, Wheatley Road (along which the Goodyear estate sits) was home to sculptors Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Charles Cary Rumsey (not to mention the Goodyear house itself was built for the founder of MoMA).  The irony is thick.


Zach L. said...

And for the record I am against Rosen's desire to remove the Picasso from the Four Seasons restaurant but in this instance am compelled to support him.

Anonymous said...

In its typical fashion, the media has blown the issue out of proportion and turned it into a sensational topic.
There are many issues going on with the sculpture. The first being that proper permits were not obtained by Mr. Rosen to install the piece on the property. It exceeds the maximum height for an accessory structure (it is considered a structure since it sits on a concrete foundation) The piece is also not within the setback regulations for the town and it was placed in a conservation easement.

The residents of the surrounding neighborhood were all very excited to have someone purchase the Goodyear house that had the means and vision to restore it properly, and the fact that Mr. Rosen would more than likely bring part of his art collection to the site was viewed as a bonus.

Besides the issue of code /permit violation, aesthetic value comes into play, and with all art there are many emotional aspects involved.

The piece is very oddly sited- it is supposed to be seen at an angle so the viewer can see both parts of the sculpture, the beautiful woman on one half, and the skinned part on the other, to have an understanding the artists idea of beauty vs. repulsion. (also, this sculpture is viewed as a second rate piece of Hirst's) The piece sits with the beautiful part of the sculpture square with the rear fa├žade of the Goodyear house, and the cut away part completely hidden from view, but in full view of all of the neighboring houses.

It is very easy to say "if you don't like it then don't look at it", but when a 33' tall, half skinned pregnant woman is looking you in the face from most of the rooms in your home, and young children are frightened by it, it makes it a little difficult to ignore.

So we should all reserve judgment on the neighbors surrounding the Goodyear house, they pay taxes too, and have to protect the investment they have in their homes and the well being of their families.

While I am all for art & artists, people must follow the rules and not feel that they are entitled to do as they please because they may or my not have a certain level of celebrity or wealth.

Zach L. said...

Your issue with Aby Rosen is a legitimate one and you would think simply asking him to rotate it to make the problem go away would be the end of it. It can also be a teachable moment about art, life, birth, zoning codes etc. Not everything that might be considered offensive by a few needs to immediately have a black shroud thrown over it.

My problem is with the Mayor of OW. I can't help but shudder when I hear him talk about the destruction of bucolic views weeks after the Village permitted the clear cutting of what had to have been hundreds of trees at the horse stable along the Service Road. The horse farm will surely soon be demolished and replaced with some vulgar monstrosity. But I suppose that's protecting the bucolic views.

I think Mayor Carillo needs to look up what exactly the word bucolic means.

Doug Floor Plan said...

Anonymous 11:35am said, "but when a 33' tall, half skinned pregnant woman is looking you in the face from most of the rooms in your home ...". I watched the news link & could not see any house or part of a neighbor's house in the any of the background. I also looked at the Bing views of the house (before the statue) but still question just how much any neighbor can see of it -- unless standing at the property line peeking through the shrubbery. I hope there are photos at this town meeting.

& Mayor Carillo saying this statue belongs at an OBGYN clinic is as stupid as saying King Tut's sarcophagus belongs in a funeral home.

bern said...

Zach, I join in your comments and recall this property in my youth. To say the pastoral settings of Old Westbury have been "butchered" over the years is, in my view, accurate. One only has to look to other areas of the North Shore to enjoy the down sizing of many larger estates done with a keen sense of preservation and taste. However, what do I know at 70. In the end, its all about money. I so grateful to have enjoyed the settings of Old Westbury as a lad and teen as well as the impact of the Robert Moses (LIE) and developers.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Carillo of Old Westbury meet Mayor Natiss of North Hills, what a pleasure, two ignorant nit wits, but this issue goes beyond the mayor's dumb opinions.

For the record, the Goodyear House sits high on a hill, which may not be evident on BIng, but which would make the piece visible from a great distance.

You would also think anyone, especially a real estate developer like Rosen, would know that you simply can't erect a 33 foot tall "anything" on ones property without needing some type of permit, especially within a L.I. village. It seems arrogant. This and the Four Seasons controversy, which is an attempt to change a landmark interior space, while ignoring pleas that those same actions would destroy historic artwork in the process, seems to point at a bigger issue with the man himself.

I only wish the residents of Old Westbury were this annoyed and outraged when others butcher and rape their village with wholesale senseless destruction of historic estate properties. Hopefully the piece remains in OW but with the proper permits filed and reviewed prior to installation just like every other poor guy would need before he could erect such a tall structure/sculpture.