The Wall Street Journal

Sheepish at the Station

Marshall Heyman, Sep 16, 2013
sheep statues

“The Lalanne sheep originally made the Parisian home into the French countryside,” said Mr. Shvo. “So we brought the countryside into the New York gas station.”

After they developed the idea, Mr. Kasmin flew to France to visit Mr. Lalanne’s widow, Claude. “At lunch in her garden I said, ‘Please can you come to New York,'” Mr. Kasmin recalled. “She said, ‘Tell me again exactly what you’re doing,’ and I said, ‘My local petrol station has been bought by a friend of mine, and Michael and I are doing an installation there with the sheep.’ And she said, ‘Fine, I will come.'”

There was some discussion of whether to call the Getty station a petrol, gas or filling station, but Ms. Lalanne was pleased regardless.

“It was a surprise,” she said, half in French and half in English, as the three sat around a bronze table of her design inside the dingy gas station. “It is a wonderful idea. I like very much the hills and the grass.” Ms. Lalanne actually had a single French word for the project: “Formidable.”

On Monday evening, Messrs. Shvo and Kasmin planned to celebrate the opening of the Getty Station and welcome Ms. Lalanne to New York with a party featuring a barbecue cooked by chef Daniel Boulud. Art patrons like Nicolas Berggruen, Hilary Geary and Wilbur Ross, Bob Shaye and Mike Ovitz were expected.

“There will be burgers and hot dogs,” said Mr. Shvo.

“But no lambchops,” said Mr. Kasmin, which made Ms. Lalanne giggle.

“They are genius,” Ms. Lalanne said.

Besides the sheep and the grass, which will need to be cut on a regular basis, the interiors and exteriors of the gas station will remain largely as is.


michael shvo with colleagues on the getty station lawn

“From an art perspective, the gas station is a 1960s American icon,” said Mr. Shvo, citing Robert Indiana and Ed Ruscha. The sheep will remain through Oct. 20, and Mr. Shvo hopes to change the installation even through construction, which he plans to start early next year. Guards will watch over the gas station 24 hours a day, and members of Mr. Kasmin’s gallery will be on hand inside the gas station’s convenience store—which has been emptied of Gatorade and beef jerky—to answer questions. Children from the Avenues school, for instance, were already given a tour on Friday of last week.

“It’s really a new way of marrying art and real estate,” said Mr. Shvo. He didn’t expect it would necessarily make people want to buy apartments in the location. “We’re on the corner of 24th and 10th,” he said. “There’s plenty of want to be here. But it does create attention.”

One problem the project has created, said Mr. Kasmin, is “we all used to get our cabs at the gas station when they stopped there to get gas. The only criticism in the neighborhood is, ‘How am I going to get a cab now?'”

“Come on,” said Mr. Shvo. “You can use Uber.”