Walk with me: Eataly Downtown claims art
This is a long yarn
I’m a sucker for free public art, even when it is sponsored by a store for marketing purposes — as long as it isn’t too blatantly obvious and that the art takes precedence over the marketing. Whenever a company has a partnership with some arts nonprofit to exhibit something in their storefront or on their ceiling or on the outside of their normally purely corporate walls, I run over to experience the thing. I have been known to be late for meetings because I have to step inside a door that says “free art inside.”
So of course when I saw the ads for the Color Factory’s Eataly popup art show, I veered out of my way, rose up four escalators, and dragged my kid along, in case it was exceptional.
Here’s the marketing pitch: “A vibrant sensory experience has landed in downtown NYC — La Pizza & La Pasta A Colori! Created in collaboration with Color Factory, this immersive experience brings together the world of food and the world of color for our New York community.”
Friends: It’s yarn. It’s yarn hanging from the ceiling. It’s the kind of art that seems to be the trend in today’s corporate-inspired, grant-driven, profitable public art sphere — the kind of art that is created from preposterously cheap materials (yarn!) and looks amazing in photographs
— but is disappointingly lousy in person.
I hope that “visual artist HOTTEA” made a lot of money, because the yarn art portion of the experience really does look like it took a long time. I believe he may have spray painted the ombre and then hung all the pieces himself. Maybe. In any event, there are many individual pieces of yarn hanging from the ceiling, and they are of various colors and it looks like a lot of work.
But here’s the thing: we had to eat under all this yarn.
Ask any person who has ever had any yarn hanging around in their house for more than two hours, and they will tell you: yarn attracts dust. It seems sometimes to actually create its own dust, as if the furry follicles divest themselves from their artificial collective and instead disperse into the air.
Sitting under an inverted field of this reedy yarn makes you feel like sneezing. Or leaving. It makes your scalp itch with invented spiders. You’re haunted by images of long-ago unwashed art bins, pawed by toddlers who have just picked their noses. It isn’t lovely, my friends, to sit under this yarn. It may look good in photographs, but just try to forget there is yarn over your head as you nibble at a menu also supposedly inspired by a color palette supposedly inspired by sunrises in Torino, Italy and NYC.
(Actual sunrise in NYC involves being blinded by harsh white light glaring off glass buildings and bouncing back to create bizarre backwards morning-shadows that can only be staved off by sunglasses. Everything about this art exhibit smacked of promotional copy and offered opportunities for posts on social media about commercial art vs genuine art.)
The artist himself said the assignment immediately made him think of “atmospheric refraction.”
(This is when light changes when passing through particles in the air.)
So I guess that’s what made him hang yarn overhead, to fill the air with particles? Sorry, HOTTEA, this installment wasn’t my… cup of…tea.
The marketing is all about the food and how it is so colorful etc, but sitting down to eat in the familiar space, you immediately feel cramped by the new illusion of low ceilings. In person, you lose the lovely color spectrum that looks so great when vivid-filtered on your IG feed. But in person? I was with a friend and they too, immediately felt a wave of horrible nausea when the dangling yarn strands floated lazily in the slight air currents, as if the intent of the art was not to create an explosion of color but instead to induce mild seasickness.
Speaking of seasick, the color above our table did not make us think of sunrise. Instead it was strangely reminiscent of vomit — a dull pinkish beige with other grayish bright colors unpleasantly splattered in the mix.
Suffice it to say, I liked HOTTEA’s marketing copy and artist statements far better than his art. I also looked him up because of this review and wow — his yarn art on fences is amazing.
His name is Eric Rieger and he is Minneapolis-based. Next time I’m in the Twin Cities, I’m definitely going to take a little side trip to view some of the fence art he is known for on Instagram. Here’s a video.
In the meantime, I do not recommend eating in the usually glamorous back part of Eataly until the Color Factory has dismantled its marketing pop-up.
La Pizza & La Pasta a Colori! is worth the slight detour of a few steps for a snapshot if you were already going to buy a $30 delicious eggplant parm to go and you stopped in the great public bathrooms, but if you thought you’d do the whole eating/drinking color-rich experience, I’d pass… the front of Eataly sells extraordinary panini that might be a better use of your time. And the amazing vegetable display has far a far more exciting and fascinating color spectrum.
Color Factory is another made-for-Instagram for-profit pseudo art installment popup near the secret Trader Joe’s on Spring. I’m not sure why Eataly needed their partnership. The restaurant was far lovelier when you could view the actual colors of the actual sunset through the extraordinary windows. Still and all, I appreciate the effort. Someone bothered to write some very enticing marketing copy and someone else worked very, very hard to describe the colors of the cocktails that they are serving. There’s also a very weird graphic-designed display that no one really “gets” at one side of the restaurant — it’s not really even worth discussing since no one I saw even noticed it was there.
Well, I’m all in for a good yarn, and this one I think warrants a trip to Minneapolis instead of a trip to Eataly. No worries. The sun also rises.