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If you have noticed that “The Bottle” in Hudson River Park’s Clinton Cove is missing, don’t worry — it’s on a planned journey to Virginia for conservation.

Back inside “The Bottle” — artist Malcolm Cochran inspects the interior before transit. Photo: Max Guliani for Hudson River Park

The iconic Hell’s Kitchen landmark at Pier 96 is actually called Private Passage — and is the work of artist Malcolm Cochran, who was on-site to oversee the transportation and step back inside the thirty foot by eight-and-a-half-foot wine bottle.

It was to prove a time stopping moment for the artist. He told us: “Tuesday November 16, 2021 was the first time I had set foot in Private Passage in 16 years. The rear hatch was open when I arrived at 7:30am on foot from midtown, and I joined the couple of guys from Stronghold Industries who had lifted the steel floor plates and were loosening the bolts that anchor the sculpture to the foundation. 

Opening up “The Bottle”— artist Malcolm Cochran inspects the interior before transit. Photo: Max Guliani for Hudson River Park

“Back in the bottle, I remembered having lain down on the bed to figure out where we should create the depressions in the implied mattress and recalling how much fun it was to include a sink-fridge-stove unit and shelving at the rear to stash luggage and provisions. A toilet? Of course there had to be one, fashioned from a stainless bowl of a commercial dough mixer.”

On his website, Cochran shares his vision for the piece: “The project is a cabin, rather than a ship, in a bottle. Visitors to the park view the interior through portholes along the sides and through openings in the neck and punty end. The porthole in the front left side is designed for young children, The interior is based loosely on photographs of the RMS Queen Mary. All components are stainless steel, in a monochromatic scheme that evokes the look of a platinum print or a black and white film still.”

Private Passage was designed for the curious to peer through the portals. Photo: Malcolm Cochran

Back in 2005, when Cochran was considering the commission, he said that: “I knew I would want to explore my personal relationship to the Hudson River Park site”. He didn’t realize how close that relationship was until he attended an interview at the HRPK’s offices at Pier 40.

“In 1955 my father had a Fulbright to teach English in Helsinki. We sailed from New York to Europe that summer (I was six years old) and returned the following year on the Maasdaam, a Holland-American liner. I realized on entering the lobby at HRPK that it was a former Holland-American Line terminal; I had disembarked in that building 45 years earlier.” Cochran got the commission.

Private Passage is lifted before beginning its journey to Virginia. Photo: Max Guliani for Hudson River Park

“The cabin is outfitted for a single individual, and it contains no personal effects. I aimed to create the sense that the room was ready to be occupied, that the viewer could project her- or himself into the space and imagine a solitary journey,” explained Cochran. “I was able to work closely with the landscape architects to site the bottle smack in the middle of the granite esplanade and without visible support to suggest impermanence … that it might have washed up or could float downstream into the Atlantic. ‘Passage’ is intended both on a literal and figurative level.”

He added: “Private Passage is on one level a timepiece, for me a way to remember my excitement as a six-year-old sailing to Europe in 1955 and to conjure up the era when the west side of Manhattan was a hub of ocean liner and commercial traffic. It also points to the future, as viewers imagine themselves in the bottle, individuals, not messages, floating down river to the Atlantic on solitary voyages. Life’s passages.”

Back inside “The Bottle” — artist Malcolm Cochran with Charles Flickinger of Flickinger Glassworks (part of the restoration team). Photo: Max Guliani for Hudson River Park

The bottle is fabricated of steel and finished to resemble bronze with a traditional green patina. At night, and in overcast weather, the interior is illuminated by electric lights that are part of the cabin’s furnishings.

Earlier in the year, Speaker Corey Johnson helped to fund the restoration with an allocation of $105,000 from the New York City Capital Budget. HRPK confirmed that the full cost of the project will be $414,000.

Cochran is excited to begin work to restore the piece. “By now ‘she’ — vessels are always female — has made a land voyage on a flatbed truck to Manassas, VA, where I will go this winter to assist with her restoration. It’s thrilling to think of the return trip and reinstallation in Clinton Cove Park where I’ve learned Private Passage has become a beloved presence,” he said.

Time-lapse of Private Passage beginning its journey to Virginia. Video: Max Guliani for Hudson River Park

“Malcolm Cochran’s artwork is a landmark in Clinton Cove that has delighted Hudson River Park visitors for years. We are pleased that it is undergoing restoration by a team of experts and that it will be returned to the Park this spring,” said Kate O’Malley, Design and Construction, Hudson River Park. 

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7 Comments

  1. It’s so rare to find a sculpture that speaks so clearly to people of all walks about our human experience. It’s simple and complex at the same time. That it’s beloved by those who see it is no surprise. It is a model for what art can and should be in a democracy.

  2. We are lucky enough to live near Malcolm and have known him for years. My wife worked with him on a major Columbus installation, and we know few if any other artists who work in such an incredibly thoughtful way. In addition, I had the honor in 1965 of sailing from Pier 40 on Holland America’s “Nieuw Amsterdam.” As some singer once said, thanks for the memories.

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