Artist Andy Goldsworthy Raises Red Flags In Rockefeller Center


Installation view: Andy Goldsworthy, Red Flags, 2020, at Frieze Sculpture, Rockefeller Center, New York City. September 1 – October 2, 2020. Photograph: Jon Cancro.

As part of Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center, artist Andy Goldsworthy is replacing the conventional flags seen at the plaza with flags dyed with earth and soil collected from each of the 50 states. Presenting 109 flags encircling the iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center Plaza, Red Flags, 2020, continues Goldsworthy’s longstanding investigation of the relationship between humans and our natural surroundings. By examining the contexts of flags and their connections to land and geography—their inherent and potential meanings are evoked in the varying qualities of red earths.


Andy Goldsworthy Red Flags (Maryland), 2020 Earth on cotton 5x8feet(152x244cm)

During his invited visit to Rockefeller Center in November 2019, Goldsworthy observed the U.S. state flags flying in place of the usual flags that represent UN countries. In response, he proposed to replace these flags with flags he creates using earth from each state. Having worked for many years with red earth found near his home in Scotland, he was aware of the remarkable staining qualities of the material that can result in vibrant permanent colors. While being a familiar material, Goldsworthy also remarked on the significance of earth in the context of a flag as most often flags denote land fought over. He said while proposing the work, “Collectively I hope they will transcend borders. The closeness of one flagpole to another means that in certain winds the flags might overlap in a continuous flowing line. My hope is that these flags will be raised to mark a different kind of defense of the land. A work that talks of connection and not division.” 


Andy Goldsworthy with Red Flags, 2020 (in progress)

Goldsworthy had almost completed this new work when the COVID-19 pandemic struck throughout the world. ”Red Flags may not have been conceived as a response to recent events, but it is now bound up with the pandemic, lockdown, division and unrest.” said Goldsworthy. “However, I hope that the flags will be received in the same spirit with which all the red earths were collected—as a gesture of solidarity and support. At best, Red Flags will rise above individual states and become a single flowing work of canvas, earth, light, color, stillness, movement and people.”


Installation view: Andy Goldsworthy, Red Flags, 2020, at Frieze Sculpture, Rockefeller Center, New York City. September 1 – October 2, 2020. Photograph: Jon Cancro.

Usually held in the spring as part of the wider programming of Frieze New York, Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center was postponed and readapted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Presented in partnership with Tishman Speyer, the major public art initiative places significant sculptural works by leading artists in open, public locations throughout Rockefeller Plaza, allowing for ample social distancing space in compliance with all City and State guidelines. Offering free admission to all, Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center will be on display from September 1 – October 2, 2020.

Photography © Andy Goldsworthy, Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

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