Grand Central Madison

Still Life

Paul Pfeiffer
An image of the Times Square performer known as the "Da Gold Man."
A detail from “Still Life” (2022) by Paul Pfeiffer at Grand Central Madison. © 2022 Paul Pfeiffer. Commissioned by ICP in partnership with MTA Arts & Design.

About the project

Grand Central Madison presents an opportunity for Arts & Design to expand its photography lightbox program. Ten uniquely designed lightboxes located on the concourse level at 43rd Street will feature rotating exhibitions of artwork by contemporary artists and photographers. In this inaugural exhibition, Arts & Design partners with the International Center of Photography (ICP) to present a new body of eye-catching photographic artwork by Paul Pfeiffer. This is the first in a series of contemporary photography exhibitions to be featured in these large-scale lightboxes.

Pfeiffer’s “Still Life” celebrates the iconic street performer known as Da Gold Man, who has appeared as a living statue on the sidewalks of Times Square for more than 17 years, covered in gold and standing motionless on a common milk crate. Da Gold Man fascinates and enthralls passersby with his uncanny, statue-like presence. When amazed audiences drop money in his tip box, he moves as a sign of appreciation.

“Presenting ‘Still Life’ in the new transit terminal is an opportunity to consider both the language of advertising that saturates midtown Manhattan and the everyday rhythms of people moving through the city's public transit hubs: some as commuters who will see the art repeatedly over time and some visitors who will walk by only once,” said artist Paul Pfeiffer. “Either way, the images are made to be seen in passing and in a distracted state, in the periphery of people's awareness. This is similar to how people come across Da Gold Man as a living statue when he's working in his native environment of Times Square. Creating this series of photographs was a unique opportunity that came together with the help of ICP, the MTA, and also the collaboration of Da Gold Man who agreed to become a part of this project, trusting me to explore the relationship of photography and performance with all of the texture and history that Da Gold Man already embodies.” 

“Still Life” features 10 large-scale photographs, each measuring approximately 75 inches tall and 100 inches wide, printed on backlit film and displayed in five custom-made, double-sided lightboxes. The images on view remove Da Gold Man from his usual spot on the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street and install him within the infinite white space of a commercial advertising studio — a seamless backdrop typically used to photograph high-end jewelry, designer fashions, and other luxury products. The pictures resulting from this unlikely mixture blur the line between studio portraiture and product photography.

About the artist

Born in Honolulu, Paul Pfeiffer grew up between Hawaii and the Philippines before moving to New York in 1990 to attend Hunter College and the Whitney Independent Study Program. Pfeiffer is known for his highly sophisticated use of digital technologies and new media, and has created celebrated works of video, photography, installation, and sculpture since the late 1990s. Using digital erasure, magnification, and repetition, Pfeiffer samples and retouches images or video footage from sporting events, concerts, game shows, and Hollywood films to enhance their psychological effects. By drawing attention to certain aspects of visual culture and concealing others, he underlines the spectacular nature of contemporary media and its consumption. 

Pfeiffer has had one-person exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2001); the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2003 and 2017-18); the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2005); MUSAC León, Spain (2008); the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2009) and Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany (2011). Pfeiffer has presented work in major international exhibitions in recent years, including the Performa Biennial (2019), the Honolulu Biennial (2019), the Seoul Mediacity Biennial (2022) and the Toronto Biennial (2022). His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Inhotim Museu de Arte Contemporanea, Inhotim, Brazil; the Pinault Collection, Venice; and Kunst Werke, Berlin, among others.