The element of surprise can simply and successfully evoke a strong, positive, emotional and visceral reaction.
While on my way to dinner after walking the High Line, I had great the fortune to witness an unexpected bucolic environment. Where one would normally see cars and people, now stood grazing sheep in a pasture. My reaction was excitement, surprise, curiosity and laughter. This site-specific installation called “Sheep Station” is the work of late artist Francois-Xavier Lalanne. The Sheep Station showcases 25 iconic epoxy stone and bronze sheep inside the Getty Station (a public art space conceived by Michael Shvo to bring outdoor exhibitions to broad audiences in the center of the High Line arts district). The installation was made possible my Michael Shvo and the Paul Kasmin Gallery. I enjoyed the experience so much, that I brought team Siegel+Gale New York to view the exhibit on our recent excursion to Chelsea galleries.
Had I sought the exhibit in advance, it wouldn’t have resulted in the same positive experience. The accessible Sheep Station provided the element of surprise as well as some escapism.
Just as the High Line is a re-purposed railroad track, the Getty station is a re-purposed gas station—in their re-imagined forms, both provide unique experiences that give audiences new points of view. The High Line’s purpose is to engage city-dwellers in their surroundings. A New Yorker on the ground level only sees what is ahead of or next to them, but seeing the city from up high provides a unique vantage point. Through elevation, we can absorb our architecture more directly. We can actually see the building structure, the water, flowers, and trees.
The gas station is an American icon that has been repeatedly expressed in art—it’s famously portrayed in Ed Rusca’s “Standard Station” or Edward Hopper’s “Gas.” It represents industry and growth. So, a sheep pasture, not indigenous to the city, against an industrial backdrop, is unexpected and welcoming.
Interactions with art, nature, industry, product or brand in a non-traditional, unconventional manner can result in rare and rewarding experiences. It can produce a feeling of awe, and curiosity, allowing the viewers to feel that they are forming their own interpretation and opinions, rather than the product or brand imposing that experience on them—dictating what to do, how to feel and act.
Simply, a message or brand needn’t be beaten into the recipient through repetition, or loud, in-your-face campaigns. Rather, a pleasant, serene, or even surreal approach can create a welcome change of pace for the viewer.
“Sheep Station” Francois-Xavier Lalanne – Sep 17 – Nov. 24, corner of 24th St and 10th Ave, Chelsea, NY
Bridget O’Neill is the talent acquisition manager at the Siegel+Gale New York Office.