Local News

Durham to consider Plensa sculpture

Posted October 22, 2008

— Two years after Raleigh officials backed away from public art downtown by noted Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the Durham City Council is expected to discuss Thursday whether to accept a Plensa sculpture for the plaza outside the new Durham Performing Arts Center.

Jim Goodmon, the president and chief executive of Capitol Broadcasting Co., has offered to donate the sculpture if the city agrees to maintain it for at least 25 years. Capitol Broadcasting is the parent company of WRAL.

The sculpture, entitled "Sleep No More," consists of a 13-foot-diameter disk of aluminum and stainless steel that bears a quote from William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" in raised letters spiraling out from the center. A 7,000-watt beam of light shoots up vertically  from an underground bulb through a lens in the middle of the disk, which sits on the ground.

Kimerly Rorschach, director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, said having a Plensa sculpture would be a huge boost for Durham's standing in the art world.

"I think it does provide a lot of new attention for the city of Durham to have commissioned a major work from an internationally known artist," Rorschach said. "He is a leading contemporary sculptor, I think one of the most imaginative artists working today."

City officials have recommended accepting the donation, saying they expect maintenance and utility costs to be less than $7,800 a year. Mayor Bill Bell said he foresees no problem with the council approving the plan.

Douglas Pratt, a curator of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, has already written to council members to lobby against the sculpture. The beam of light would disorient and harm migratory birds, he said, and he suggested leaving the beam off in the spring and fall.

The beam is expected to be so strong that Durham officials would have to notify air-traffic controllers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport when the beam is turned on and off, according to a city memo.

Capitol Broadcasting, which has purchased the naming rights to the plaza, also has financed the redevelopment of former tobacco warehouses next to the site of the performing arts center into downtown office and retail space.

In 2005, Goodmon offered a Plensa sculpture for the south end of Raleigh's Fayetteville Street, which was being reopened to traffic downtown after years as a pedestrian mall.

Some officials complained the display of flashing lights would detract from the view from the State Capitol to the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The controversy caused Plensa to drop out of the project, and Goodmon then withdrew his offer to donate public art to the site.

Raleigh officials broke ground Monday on the City Plaza downtown after redesigning the project.

Goodmon last year donated three Plensa sculptures to the North Carolina Museum of Art.

If Durham accepts the donation, the sculpture will be unveiled on Dec. 1. The performing arts center is scheduled to open Nov. 30.


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  • bozoclown3118 Oct 27, 2008

    What about global warming and the global recession?

  • whatelseisnew Oct 22, 2008

    Tis amazing the stupidity of some; they would have Government spend on everything and anything. By the way did you enjoy all the layoff announcements today. Perhaps all those folks that are out of work can gather around the light. Hmmm wonder if Durham will buy some carbon offsets from the power company.

  • Durham-Raleigh Oct 22, 2008

    "Durham is unbelievable! They pay their law enforcement a joke for a salary but they spend money on the old Durham Bulls park in the middle of the ghetto and pay for stupid things like this! JUST NUTS!"

    First of all: I live near the ballpark (both of them) and they are far from a "ghetto." Thanks for demonstrating ignorance, though. In fact, the new park draws a half-million people a year with burgeoning restaurants and offices right nearby.

    Secondly: This is a major economic gift to the city. Coming up with a few thousand bucks a year to run it is absolutely nothing. Thanks Jim G!

    PS -- we just raised the police salaries significantly this year.

  • f6rider Oct 22, 2008

    Save the Wales!!

  • knowthefacts Oct 22, 2008

    Durham is unbelievable! They pay their law enforcement a joke for a salary but they spend money on the old Durham Bulls park in the middle of the ghetto and pay for stupid things like this! JUST NUTS!

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Oct 22, 2008

    this is good....economic times are bad.....tax income is down (although it's still WAY TOO HIGH)....and we're going to spend money on this project?

  • housemanagercary Oct 22, 2008

    The man offered to donate a sculture to the city as a generous gift and you all jump all over him! Typical... The city can choose to turn on or off the light as they deem fit. The city already has to pay maintenance workers to maintain public features downtown so cleaning and maintaining the statue is not a big deal. For the record, it is also not the city's responsibility to do house the homeless, and isn't the Durham school system the County and not the city?

  • NCSUPackfan Oct 22, 2008

    Take that Raleigh!

  • carolinej Oct 22, 2008

    I just don't believe any one person or group of persons should inflict their choice of art on an entire community. And who is going to call the air traffic control? Why something so complicated as this particular piece of "art?"

  • NothingBetterToDo Oct 22, 2008

    It's the top story because he owns this website.