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Monday, July 14, 2003

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will install a monumental artwork–a billboard/banner designed by the late contemporary artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957–1996)–on the museum’s façade and at sites throughout the Washington area from July 2003 through January 2004. The work, “Untitled (For Jeff),” was made in 1992 and was acquired by the Hirshhorn in 1995. Beginning July 15, the Hirshhorn’s billboard, which measures approximately 25 by 34 feet, will face Independence Avenue near the intersection of Independence and 7th Street S.W.

Consisting of a black-and-white photograph of the palm of a reaching, open hand, the billboard image will be reproduced in various sizes at each of the participating locations, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Gallery of Art and at least six other building and road-side sites (listed below).

The billboard piece was designed by the artist to be presented in large format at multiple public sites whenever it is exhibited by the museum. The Hirshhorn is presenting the work as part of “Gyroscope”—a museum-wide celebration of its permanent collection continuing through early January 2004—which features innovative solo and group installations that encourage audiences to experience modern and contemporary art from a variety of perspectives, inviting curiosity, discovery and revelation.

“Untitled (For Jeff)” is named after a healthcare worker who nursed the artist’s dying friend and suggests a range of meanings. “The hand is extended in a gesture of welcome, offering assistance or seeking support,” says Hirshhorn Curator of Contemporary Art Olga Viso, who is coordinating the project for the museum. She adds, “Interpretations of the piece will depend on the environments and neighborhoods in which the billboards are presented. Regardless of its location, the work reflects a spirit of generosity that runs throughout Gonzalez-Torres’ art and resonates with the Hirshhorn’s mission to connect with audiences and stimulate their interest in modern and contemporary art.”

Gonzalez-Torres, a Cuban-born artist who grew up in Puerto Rico and lived and worked in New York City during the 1980s and ’90s, collaborated with museums in the early 1990s to place billboard artworks featuring different images in cities throughout the world, including Caracas, New York City, Mexico City and Stockholm. In other projects, Gonzalez-Torres invited audiences to consume candies from sculptural mounds of sweets or take away posters from stacks of off-set prints—reflecting the artist’s commitment to producing art that is accessible and invites the participation of the public at large.

By the end of July 2003, “Untitled (For Jeff)” will be on view at the following locations:

• Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue at 7th Street S.W. (Washington)
• Corcoran Gallery of Art, E Street at 17th Street N.W. (Washington)
• 1803 Connecticut Ave. N.W. (Washington)
• 1124 10th St. N.W. (Washington)
• Kenilworth Avenue, north of 48th Avenue (Maryland)
• Rhode Island Avneue, north of Wallace Street (Maryland)
• Route 1/Richmond Highway, south of Fairhaven Avenue (Virginia)

In August, billboards will be placed at the National Gallery of Art (Madison Drive and 7th Street N.W., Washington) and at Suitland Road, east of Shadyside Avenue (Maryland). Throughout the summer and fall, additional billboards are expected to be sited in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. While the image will continue to be displayed at some locations until January, at other sites it will be up for monthlong periods, resulting in a dynamic public presentation of art throughout the region.

The realization of the billboards has been made possible by the generosity of Kitty and Tom Stoner, Art for Arts Sake, Marion Boulton Stroud, Wendy Goldberg, and in-kind support from Urban Investment Advisors/Starwood Urban Group, Isabel and Ricardo Ernst, Clear Channel Outdoor, and the Hirshhorn’s host museum partners.

At the Hirshhorn, “Untitled (For Jeff)” can be viewed 24 hours a day. Museum hours for “Gyroscope” are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week (closed Christmas Day, Dec. 25). By Metrorail, use the L’Enfant Plaza Metro stop, and exit at Maryland Avenue and 7th Street. Admission to the museum is free.

About the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the nation’s museum of modern and contemporary art, serves an estimated 700,000 visitors annually, making it one of the most visited institutions of its kind in the world. The museum’s rapidly growing permanent collection numbers more than 11,000 works, including significant collections of contemporary art, modern sculpture, European painting since World War II and American painting since the late 19th century. The museum maintains active exhibition and educational programs, examining and informing the public about the art of out time.

The Hirshhorn opened on Oct. 1, 1974 as a result of one individual’s collecting efforts and generous gift. Philanthropist Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981) donated his extensive personal collection of modern and contemporary art to the United States via the Smithsonian Institution in 1966. The Hirshhorn is one of 16 museums of the Smithsonian Institution and part of its International Art Museums Division, which also includes the Freer Gallery of Art, National Museum of African Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

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