Officially Underway, David Hammons’s Hudson River Project is a Monument to New York City History and Artistic Intervention

October 31, 2019

THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART sits adjacent to the Hudson River, a waterfront with a storied history that inspired “Day’s End,” a monumental, permanent public art project by David Hammons. Once home to meatpacking warehouses and commercial piers that served the shipping industry, the piers were reclaimed in the early 1970s becoming a hub where artists and the gay community gathered.

During this period, Gordon Matta-Clark famously cut openings into the abandoned Pier 52 shed, allowing light to flood through the dark structure. He called his creation “Day’s End” (1975). Adam D. Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum, has described the work as “a cathedral of light and water.”

Inspired by Matta-Clark’s intervention, Hammons envisioned an open structure located on the site of the original shed, a “ghost monument” reflecting its outlines and dimensions. Conceptual and abstract, the work is about the history of New York, its changing landscape, and artistic lineage. Commissioned by the Whitney Museum and developed in collaboration with the Hudson River Park Trust, plans for the new work were first revealed in October 2017 and last week the museum announced the project is officially underway.

The groundbreaking of “Day’s End” was celebrated on the third floor of the Whitney Museum, which offers expansive views of the waterfront and the site of public project on the Gansevoort Peninsula. The fete took place at sunset on Sept. 16, with Hammons attendance.

A number of other artists were there, too, according to the museum, including Derrick Adams, Jules Allen, Dawoud Bey, Torkwase Dyson, Awol Erizku, Maren Hassinger, Dave McKenzie, Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, Tiona Nekkia McClodden (winner of the Whitney Biennial’s 2019 Bucksbaum Award), and Jason Moran, whose solo show just opened at the museum. Also present, were Whitney Museum officials, curators, and trustees; philanthropic donors; local elected officials; and Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.