It only took one visit to this resort for acclaimed artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov to decide what they wanted to make for their large-scale, outdoor, public installation in Atlantic City.
They settled on a pirate ship.
“We infuse the fantasy about everyday life into the installations,” Emilia Kabakov said last month from the couple’s Long Island, N.Y., home. “It’s Atlantic City. It’s social. It’s about the water. It’s about treasure. It’s about money, and at the same time, it’s about adventure. Children like adventure. When I was growing up, a big part of my reading was about pirates.”
The Kabakovs’ installation is one of the Artlantic interactive art displays being placed on empty city lots that have long been viewed as eyesores. The goal is to make the lot more appealing until redevelopment occurs. The ship will be on the lot for next five years.
A 98-foot-long wooden pirate ship, given the name “Devil’s Rage,” will sit at the 20-acre site owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, which imploded the Sands Casino Hotel there in 2007. The company planned to build a replacement casino within five years, but it never happened. The lot extends from Pacific Avenue to the Boardwalk between Kentucky Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The Kabakovs have had their work shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C. They have had exhibitions this year in Italy, Belgium, Norway and Brazil. They will have an exhibit next month in Holland.
The couple may be best known in this country for the “Ship of Tolerance,” an internationally acclaimed installation series, which made stops in cities that included Miami, Venice, Italy and St. Moritz, Switzerland. It connected and educated young people of different identities, cultures and continents through art. The Kabakovs worked with Lance Fung, the curator of the Atlantic City’s public art program.
At least 50 builders took three months to construct “Devil’s Rage” on Long Island, Emilia Kabakov said.
“It will be installed under our supervision. It’s very big. It’s huge, and then we go back, and then we come for the opening,” Emilia Kabakov said.
This is their first public commission that was started in this country.
For transport, the pirate ship had to be separated into smaller parts and put on flatbed trucks, to be put back together by the general contractors, L. Feriozzi Concrete Co. of Atlantic City.
“It’s a fun project for us, something different than what we normally do,” said Emilia Kabakov, who added she plans to have simulated gold coins on the ship that children can take. “It’s an interesting project. We hope visually that it will be everything that we expect. We will not leave until it is what we expected.”
The Kabakovs’ 12-year-old granddaughter, Orliana Morag, played a role with the pirate ship. She named it and was scheduled to read an original story she wrote about it during the unveiling on Nov. 9.
In the story, the Royal Navy sinks the Devil’s Rage during a battle in 1780 off the coast of New Jersey.
“She wrote a story defining exactly what the ship was - the captain, the pirates ... how it ended up in Atlantic City, said Emilia Kabakov, who added her granddaughter serves as the ambassador to the “Ship of Tolerance” and attends every new opening at each stop.
“Devil’s Rage” is intended as an interactive public art display. Emilia Kabakov would like the city’s children to be involved with it.
“Children can play, but they also can learn. They can do drawings. They can also write stories. The way we involved our granddaughter, that’s the same way all the children of Atlantic City could be involved,” Emilia Kabakov said.
Michael Cagno, executive director of The Noyes Museum of Art of Richard Stockton College in Pomona, said he expects Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s pirate ship to make a strong connection to the environment while also providing an inclusionary aspect for the viewer. Having the work as part of the new public art program is an amazing step by the city in efforts to attract international artists and patrons, Cagno said.
Public art enhances a sense of pride and community and is more than an object, he said.
“It is about an idea, an idea that can develop into educational programs. But the most important aspect of public art is that it is available to all, breaking down the economic, social and ethnic barriers that you would typically find in other creative environments,” Cagno said.