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Late last night, a flatbed truck returned to Hudson River Park with Malcolm Cochran’s Private Passage. In an operation lasting into the early hours of this morning, the 19,000-pound landmark artwork was hauled, rolled, pushed and cajoled back onto its foundations at Pier 96 at the end of W56th Street.
The artist, Cochran, was on hand to watch everything being put back into place last night as the team led by Jackie Wilson from Wilson Conservation used cradles, hoists and worker power to accurately place the “bottle” back on its plinth.” Dun-Rite Specialized Carriers were in charge of the heavy lifting and Stronghold Industries put in place all the final pieces, like glass and electricity.
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.
When the green sculpture was hauled away last November, much of the outside was showing heavy signs of weathering. Working with Wilson and the team at American Stripping Company in Manassas Park, Virginia, they replicated the original patina with paint. “We came up with a layering of three different colors to mimic and to get close to the original patina. So there’s a blue, green base, then there’s dark green and then there’s a black-green. The dark green and the black-green are put on very light, kind of a ghosting on it. We decided that the painting was the better way to go for durability, We’re also hopeful that it will be easier to retouch,” said Cochran.
Hudson River Park spent $414,000 on the restoration of the iconic sculpture. Cochran described 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.”
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.”
The park was still under construction 17 years ago when Private Passage was installed, which meant that they boomed the bottle in with a crane the first time. Asked about whether he’d be around for the next time Private Passage is restored, Cochran said: “I was here when it moved here in 2005. It was 17 years until the restoration, but maybe it can be a bit longer this time. I don’t think I’ll see another restoration. Maybe.”