A highly anticipated project with no firm finishing date, light artist James Turell's Roden Crater has assumed outsize importance in the contemporary art world (which is saying something, considering it's a gigantic crater in the northern Arizona desert). Progress has been slow, but the appointment of Yvette Lee, formerly of the Guggenheim and Whitney Museum, as the first executive director of the Skystone Foundation, which overseas administration and fund-raising for the unfinished land art project, demonstrates some forward momentum. She's now tasked with communicating Turrell's vision, raising enough money to finish the project, and perhaps managing the expectations of fans excited for the chance to tour the elaborate network of underground tunnels and sculpture that's been in the works since 1979. Curbed spoke with Lee about the new position and the challenges of promoting a project without precedent.
How did you get the gig?
"I met James in 2008 when we started to work on his Guggenheim show together. There had been some work done prior to my arrival at the Guggenheim, but that's when we really got into the plans for the exhibition. I was also fortunate enough to have gone out to the Crater in 2013, and as is very common with most people who go out there, it's a real transformative experience. That's when I fell in love with the work and realized the kind of visionary that he is. Who dreams of putting a piece of work like that in a volcano? The problem is that it's such a physical experience, there's really nothing like being there. It's really mind-blowing. Anyways, we kept in touch after that, and the new role just organically happened."
How does the scope and scale of the work affect fundraising? You have an experience to share with people, but it's so esoteric. It must be difficult to describe.
"James has 86 skyspaces around the world, which is a great introduction to his work. It's a great introduction for people to see what they'd come into contact with at the Roden Crater, which would be the existing works times about 100. I would say that we're lucky now because we now have things to show at the Crater, a portion of what the final design will look like, and how it will interact with celestial events."
Where would you say things are in terms of finishing the crater? Is there any timeline?
"I can't answer that, since I'm still getting a handle on it. It really does depend on fundraising, and we don't have the figures yet for how much we'd need to finish."
Do you have any vision or view of what you'd like to do in terms of fundraising and communications? What story do you want to tell about the Crater?
"Prior to the announcement of my new role, we updated the website. For me, transparency is really important. I want to get away from this idea that the Crater is something very exclusive. Obviously, we're not open to the public and widely available yet, but I want that to change. We'll be updating the website, Facebook and Instagram as we progress. Since the 2013 retrospectives, there's a huge new audience for James's work, and I want to engage them, have a dialogue, and get them get excited about the progress."
How do you make a Crater in the middle of the desert accessible?
"That's something I'm still working on and wrapping my head around. Part of it will be through the website and offsite education programs. I'm working on some ideas, but it's a little premature to talk about that yet."
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