As mysteriously as it appeared, the internet’s favorite metal monolith has vanished from its location in remote Utah. “IT’S GONE!” announced the Department of Public Safety in an Instagram post — but is it? According to some theories, the monolith might not have vanished, but rather made like a true influencer and relocated from its remote Utah location to New York City. Specifically, to David Zwirner’s Chelsea gallery, which currently houses an (apparent) identical sculpture by the late John McCracken.
When state employees first stumbled across the 10 feet-high structure last week, they reported “no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.” Some said aliens, others guessed 2001: A Space Odyssey heads or Kubrick enthusiasts. The most tenable theory is that the monolith was the work of one of the god-fathers of minimalism, John McCracken – but even this theory is heavily disputed.
When images of the puzzling structure began to appear online, gallerist David Zwirner claimed it was nearly identical to the late artist’s 2011 sculpture, titled “Fair.” The David Zwirner gallery, which has exhibited the artist’s work since 1997 and represents his estate, is divided as to whether the structure is a bona fide McCracken, though. Nevertheless, they wasted no time in directing the public to their Chelsea gallery where “Fair” was conveniently installed recently.
A spokesman for David Zwirner told The Art Newspaper that the monolith “is not a work by the late American artist John McCracken, [but] we suspect it is a work by a fellow artist paying homage to McCracken.” However, Zwirner later told The New York Times that he personally believes the piece “is definitely by John.”
Was this part of a well-orchestrated scheme to increase McCracken’s market value or just a bit of art-world clout chasing? American pop artist and friend of McCracken, Ed Ruscha, is skeptical. “I don’t think that’s a John McCracken,” he told The New York Times. “It’s unlike him to be a trickster of someone. A monolith in the desert? It’s so universal that it could be anybody. It’s very sci-fi to come across something like that. I like the idea of someone’s having fun.”
To further complicate things, McCraken died nine years ago, yet the structure looked like it was installed (and then de-installed) in Utah well after his death. The Verge found that Google Earth photos from 2013 and mid-2015 show no trace of it, but it’s clearly visible by October of 2016 when the surrounding ground has also been apparently cleared of scrub.
The late sculptor’s son offers a small detail that gives strength to the claim that the work was installed with the sculptor’s permission and after his passing. Patrick McCracken said that when he heard the news, he thought back to an evening in May 2002, when his father was living in New Mexico. “We were standing outside looking at the stars and he said something to the effect of that he would like to leave his artwork in remote places to be discovered later.”
Take an up-close look at the sculpture at David Zwirner’s flagship location on 20th Street in New York City. Book an appointment to visit the gallery here. The gallery is also hosting the group exhibition 20/20, where artists including Kerry James Marshall and Oscar Murillo reflect on this garbage fire of a year.
John McCracken’s Fair (2011)
David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, Manhattan