Sav­ing the Eisen­hower Me­mo­rial

Pres­i­dent Trump should or­der a more faith­ful re­design

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By R. Em­mett Tyrrell Jr. R. Em­mett Tyrrell Jr. is ed­i­tor in chief of The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor. He is au­thor of “The Death of Lib­er­al­ism,” pub­lished by Thomas Nel­son Inc.

There is hope. I am speak­ing of the en­vi­sioned me­mo­rial to Dwight D. Eisen­hower here in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Ad­mit­tedly, its de­sign by the crank ar­chi­tect Frank Gehry has been pretty much ac­cepted by the Dwight D. Eisen­hower Me­mo­rial Com­mis­sion, and the chair­man of the House com­mit­tee that has con­trol of the fund­ing, Rep. Ken Calvert, seems to be go­ing along. What is more, the con­gres­sion­ally ap­proved waiver calling for the me­mo­rial to have all of its fund­ing in place be­fore ground­break­ing has been ap­proved. So work on the me­mo­rial could be­gin as early as Septem­ber.

Yet there is hope. Don­ald Trump is pres­i­dent and he has called for deep and mean­ing­ful cuts in do­mes­tic spend­ing. Why not start with Mr. Gehry’s play­thing, the me­mo­rial to Ike? Then a se­ri­ous ar­chi­tect could get go­ing on a me­mo­rial to one of the men who as­sured the Al­lies of vic­tory over the Nazis and the Ja­panese war­lords. Ike was, we are dis­cov­er­ing, also a very good pres­i­dent.

Pres­i­dent Trump can achieve all this while mak­ing it clear that small economies in the bud­get set the stage for the larger economies that are bound to come. At some point the politi­cians are go­ing to have to ad­dress our dis­as­trous eco­nomic con­di­tion, and with Mr. Gehry’s mon­stros­ity we have a wel­come tar­get. It is a waste­ful ex­pense and an of­fense to all those Amer­i­cans who have had enough of the cul­tural elites’ tastes im­posed on them. “We hope very much that some­one in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will pay at­ten­tion,” Sam Roche, a spokesman for Right by Ike, told Roll Call mag­a­zine. Right by Ike is an or­ga­ni­za­tion crit­i­cal of Mr. Gehry’s work. Mr. Roche went on to say, “This is em­blem­atic of the swamp that the new pres­i­dent says he is here to drain.” Give that man a “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hat.

Let out a tweet, Mr. Pres­i­dent, and send Steve Ban­non up to Capi­tol Hill to shore up your base with the com­mon Amer­i­cans. In­ci­den­tally, do you sup­pose the White House knows that Art­net News re­ported that Mr. Gehry wants to re­move him­self to France be­cause of Don­ald Trump’s election? Yes, Mr. Gehry was pic­tured in Art­net News wear­ing an ill-fit­ting suit coat and baggy blue jeans com­plain­ing about the pres­i­dent’s vic­tory and whin­ing that crit­ics still do not con­sider him an artist. Well, be­fore you move to France, Mr. Gehry, go down to Brooks Broth­ers and get a de­cent suit and a col­lared shirt. Bet­ter yet, Mr. Trump can send you the name of his tai­lor.

I first en­coun­tered Frank Gehry’s work when I vis­ited Bil­bao, Spain, back in 2015. There the Guggen­heim Mu­seum has col­lected the most upto-date mod­ern art in a build­ing de­signed by him. The mu­seum is sit­u­ated on the out­skirts of Bil­bao, and looks from afar like noth­ing so much as a huge jet­liner that has crashed into the city, per­haps two jet­lin­ers. It even fea­tures clouds of smoke that rise from a wa­ter pool on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and are em­blem­atic of noth­ing in par­tic­u­lar. Mr. Gehry was sim­ply at play. The build­ing is cov­ered mostly by ti­ta­nium, a metal that shines even in the gloom of Bil­bao to what pur­pose I still do not know. Why not alu­minum?

For his Eisen­hower Me­mo­rial he en­vis­ages trans­form­ing a four-acre city block near the Na­tional Mall. He plans to lit­ter it with mean­ing­less junk. There ap­pear to be colos­sal and mean­ing­less ce­ment chunks, also a vast wo­ven metal ta­pes­try, and fi­nally some stat­ues of Ike from dif­fer­ent phases in his life. Pos­si­bly he will be de­picted as supreme al­lied com­man­der and as the pres­i­dent who got Amer­ica through the 1950s, and as golfer. Ike was of­ten de­rided for his avid­ity for the links. That was be­fore Bill Clin­ton and Barack Obama made golf the of­fi­cial pres­i­den­tial pas­time. The metal ta­pes­try en­vi­sioned for the Mall stands 60 feet tall and 385 feet long. Sup­pos­edly, it de­picts the D-Day land­ing site as it ap­pears today. What is the point? I could un­der­stand if there ap­peared nu­bile cuties in biki­nis on the beach, but the thought did not oc­cur to Mr. Gehry. He has some­thing cos­mic thing in mind. The me­mo­rial is re­ally all about him.

Ac­tu­ally, there is noth­ing se­ri­ous about Mr. Gehry, cer­tainly noth­ing pa­tri­otic or heroic. He is sim­ply an­other self-ab­sorbed mod­ernist like Jeff Koons, an­other artist whose work ap­pears in the Guggen­heim in Bil­bao. Why does he not in­vite Mr. Koons to pop­u­late the Eisen­hower Me­mo­rial with his trade­mark gew­gaws: in­flat­able dolls, pastel but­ter­flies, metal­lic rab­bits, and I think I saw one of his sculp­tures de­pict­ing plaster spinach, or was it as­para­gus? Mod­ern art no longer alarms mu­seum go­ers, which I guess is an ad­vance. It is sim­ply in­fan­tile, triv­ial and ba­nal.

Surely, we do not want this ar­chi­tect in baggy jeans to cre­ate a me­mo­rial to one of the great Amer­i­cans of the 20th cen­tury. Pres­i­dent Trump, it is time to act.


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