Swimming Pool Based on Van Gogh’s Ear Lugged All the Way to the Big Apple

Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – US – Project freight forwarding movements come in all shapes and sizes but few will have been transported more out of the ordinary than the 3,500 kilogramme swimming pool sculptured in the shape of Vincent Van Gogh’s missing ear! Van Gogh’s Ear, a sculpture by Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, is now standing in pride of place outside the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Rockefeller Center. It’s hard to miss, as it takes the form of a 10m high 1950s-style swimming pool based on the famous artist’s missing appendage which it is rumoured he cut off in 1888.

Created in Poland plans were drawn up to load the sculpture onto a low loader truck for the road trip to the German port of Bremerhaven, where it would be loaded onto a RoRo ship heading for New York City. Special permits were also arranged which covered the schedule for night-time movement and a police escort. Time was tight, as there was only one ship sailing out of Bremerhaven that would arrive in New York by the deadline, but it would be enough – just.  As GAC UK’s Dominic Watson explains it was past cooperation which secured the job for the Dubai headquartered group:

“Masterpiece International, the art shippers, having worked with GAC on transporting smaller pieces before, approached us with this opportunity late last year. I was confident that we had what it would take to deliver this unique work of art due to our experience in handling highly valuable and delicate items for various events and projects.”

As so often with this type of movement the flexibility of the logistics outfit proved to be the factor which transformed potential disaster into unqualified success. When it became clear that Van Gogh’s Ear would not be ready in time, a new plan had to be drawn up at the last minute. It was redirected to Zeebrugge to meet the same vessel when it arrived at the Belgian port three days after leaving Bremerhaven. Restrictions still applied, with the loaded truck only allowed to crawl the 1300 kilometres between the hours of 2200 and 0600, plus an unplanned road closure meant it had to take a major diversion meaning it arrived in Belgium just one day before the deadline.

Meanwhile, plans were drawn up to fly the finishing touches of the artwork, steps, diving board and unique paint, to New York, to wait in Manhattan when the main superstructure arrived on a truck from the port, and the efforts of the GAC did not go unnoticed with Andrew Pearlstein, Vice President of General Freight at Masterpiece International, saying:

“The Installation at Rockefeller Center was a huge success, and that largely thanks to the efforts of GAC’s team in Europe working to getting this important and delicate artwork delivered on time and intact. Their determination and diligence within a timeframe that allowed no room for error, despite being thrown a few curve balls, was admirable. So too was their attention to detail to ensure Van Gogh’s Ear made it safely across the Atlantic.”

Van Gogh would have been 163 today and whether he did cut the ear off, or it was bitten off in a bust up with fellow artist Gauguin in their time in Arles, or indeed if it is just an apocryphal story, matters little now. As can be imagined the sight of a giant blue ear-shaped pool making its way through the city streets and being erected on Fifth Avenue caused quite a stir, even among New Yorkers, with the movement even featured in the local TV News. Speaking on behalf of the two artists their Studio Manager, Sandra Stemmer commented:

“GAC did a very dedicated, careful and professional job and also were highly flexible and creative in solution finding, which is really important when you work in the art world. Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset and the studio are very happy and look forward to working on other projects with them in the future.”

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