Before you throw your used Aspen/Snowmass lift ticket away, take a closer look — it’s art. For six seasons, the Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) and the Aspen Art Museum (AAM) have collaborated to bring art to “unexpected places.” One of the most unexpected being the piece of radio-frequency enabled plastic tucked into the pocket of your ski coat.
The cooperative initiative began in 2005 when Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson joined the Aspen Art Museum as Director and Chief Curator. New to Aspen, she was watching the visiting skiers who flood the town each winter and was struck by the idea that their lift tickets were actually small canvasses. And, aside from a barcode and an expiration date, largely blank canvases at that.
An idea was born: Why not adorn Aspen/Snowmass lift tickets with contemporary art? And from that simple idea a unique partnership was born, that has resulted not only in beautiful and visually-challenging lift tickets, but also some creative, transitory on-mountain art. As lift tickets provide a canvas for contemporary art writ small, the four Aspen/Snowmass ski mountains provide a canvas writ large.
Unexpected and Unconventional
Currently, and through February 21, 2011, skiers and riders at Snowmass are surprised to hear singing as they cross the Trestle Bridge between the Big Burn and Sheer Bliss lifts. An acappella melody, almost ethereal, greets them and then disappears. Except for a low-profile sign at the east end of the bridge explaining the installation by Susan Philipsz, there is no forewarning, no promotion. It is truly “unexpected.” Skiers are left wondering if what they just heard was even real, or just the sounds of the mountain.
Philipsz’ installation, White Winter Hymnal (a work originally performed by the Fleet Foxes) is in place through February 21, 2011 sounding at random times. I heard it on a sunny January afternoon. The following week, when I went back with a friend, it was silent. Philipsz, a Berlin-based vocal artist was the 2010 Winner of the Turner Prize, an annual honor awarded to a contemporary British artist. For the exhibit opening Philipsz came to Aspen and took her first ski lesson.
Other “unexpected” art on the mountains has included a pair of giant, colorful 8 foot dice designed by Japanese artist Yutaka Sone, which were tossed down the Superpipe at X Games 2006 and Shred the Gnar Full Moon Film Noir, an experiential film by Los Angeles-based Jennifer West.
Shred the Gnar Full Moon Film Noir was made with the help of participants at the 2010 Bud Light Spring Jam, when West threw film containing images of the moon onto the snow and invited skiers and riders to run over it. After the film was marred, West took it (yes, the film) hot-tubbing and rubbed it with pain relievers including arnica, Tiger Balm and Advil, thus mimicking some of the end-of-the-ski-day, off-mountain activities of winter athletes. Her final product was aired the following weekend at Aspen/Snowmass Spring Jam.
The Art in Your Pocket
But back to the lift tickets. The first art tickets were issued during the 2005-2006 ski season. These tickets, adorned with the image Ski Madonna, were designed by Yutaka Sone (remember the dice?). Sone’s whimsical piece portrays himself (an avid skier) and an Aspen Art Museum staff person skiing the trees along Trainor’s Ridge at Aspen Mountain through a lens of giant abstract snowflakes.
The 2006-2007 season featured Study for Olin Mark IV, an austere, almost mono-chromatic winter scene by Scottish painter Peter Doig, another avid skier.
Subsequent works have ranged from Gelsey Stuck on the Matterhorn, a portrait of American ballerina Gelsey Kirkland lost in the snow (and inappropriately dressed for an alpine adventure) by American artist Karen Kilimnik; Give More Than You Can Take, a bright text-based message of universal applicability by American artist Jim Hodges; and an untitled vast, empty snowscape by Carla Klein of the Netherlands.
This season’s ticket is an abstract which melds a glen of aspen trees with a two-story building, of which the viewer sees only the windows and the images reflected amongst them. The work, titled Sleeping Standing Up, is by Swedish artist Mamma Andersson. An exhibition of Andersson’s paintings is hanging at the Aspen Art Museum through February 6, 2011.
If all of this art in unexpected places isn’t enough, the Aspen Skiing Company has delved in a bit deeper on its own, commissioning a multi-site exhibit of skiing-themed paintings by Italian Walter Niedermayr which will be featured at various venues on the mountains throughout this season and into 2012. Currently, exhibits are in place across all four mountains and a map and audio-guide are being produced. For more information, please visit the Aspen/Snowmass website.
When You Go….
Not everyone gets the limited edition contemporary lift ticket. Notably, pass holders have been left out and, until this season, had to be satisfied with a photo montage and lots of days of skiing. This year, season pass holders will have an image of Highland Bowl by Walter Niedermayr on their passes. Day skiers and visitors purchasing multi-day tickets will receive passes with the Mamma Andersson painting.
Other activities and events sponsored by the Aspen Art Museum and the Aspen Skiing Company this season include the annual Create Your Own Lift Ticket event on March 12, 2011. This free event invites skiers and riders of all ages to create their own usable art and will be held at Buttermilk from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. More information can be found at the AAM website.
Plans are underway for an art event during Bud Light Spring Jam. At this time, details are not available, but the dates for Spring Jam are March 18-20 and 25-27, 2011. Contact the Aspen Art Museum for more details as the dates approach.
Admission to the Aspen Art Museum is free, courtesy of John and Amy Phelan. The AAM is closed Mondays and major holidays with varying hours Tuesday through Sunday. The Aspen Art Museum website is a great source of information regarding exhibits and events.
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