I HATE CONCEPTUAL ART! Nothing annoys me more than some rich kid finding a broken chair or bicycle in a dumpster, painting it or something, and then calling it “art”. Thank you, Marcel Duchamp. Anyway, I do give credit to dedicated conceptual artist Walter De Maria. His long-term installation piece, Earth Room, has been on display and open to the public for free continuously since I was born (or 1980 for the tens of thousands who do not know me personally). Visitors ring a nondescript buzzer at 141 Wooster Street in the middle of SoHo and walk up some stairs to a quiet room filled with 280,000 pounds of dirt.
In case you’re wondering how De Maria affords to display and take care of a pile of dirt in the middle of Manhattan’s most expensive neighborhood, well, he is supported by the Dia Art Foundation and long-time caretaker Bill Dilworth. For the past three decades, Dilworth waters and rakes the dirt once a week, which brings about a distinct, rich scent that fills the loft. It sounds like Earth Room is better taken care of than most people’s gardens…or houses…or lives. Occasionally Dilworth notices a mushroom or two sprouting from the ground. HOW EXCITING! Even though I’m sure there are enough dirty lofts all over NYC growing shit naturally (maybe more than just mushrooms) without needing a pile of “dirt art.” But maybe I just don’t get it.