Two months after its grand opening, drama continues to surround the Aspen Art Museum, designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Shigeru Ban.
The most recent fuss involves three visitors who attempted to scale the museum’s basket-like 47-foot-tall walls, made of a wood-paper pulp composite and finished with a sleek veneer. In response, a municipal court judge slapped the climbers with a $150 fee, 10 hours of community service, and a one-year deferment on trespassing charges.
The $45 million museum, a lattice box housing 33,000 square feet of gallery and event space, has been a source of controversy ever since city officials approved the blueprints in 2010. Back then, residents objected to the museum’s scale, which they feared would dwarf the city’s historic downtown streets, and resentment continued to fester throughout construction.
Cooper Means, a 22-year-old Aspen native, was caught posing for a photo with a friend while perched on the wall the day of the museum’s opening. “It’s the worst thing to happen to Aspen since I was born there,” Means told the Aspen Times. “The old art museum was a great place to go with local artists and fun people to talk with. Now the museum is part of the ‘art industry.’ You go up Aspen or Shadow or Smuggler Mountain, and it stands out. It wasn’t designed as a part of the town.”
If Means had made it three-quarters up the wall, he would have been eligible to claim a $500 prize being offered by Aspen artist Lee Mulcahy. Mulcahy–who has been banned from museum property since 2011, when he posted “For Sale” signs on the building site–is offering a “$500 Wild West Bounty” to anyone who posts photographic evidence of a successful climb on Twitter.
As Artnet notes, the “urban daredevil” is having a moment, with artists-cum-climbers taking advantage of platforms like Instagram to capture and share their escapades. Over the summer a pair of German artists climbed the Brooklyn Bridge and planted a white flag in tribute to the bridge’s German engineer.
As for the Aspen museum, the rules are clear: “We have a zero-tolerance policy for climbing the wall,” communications director Jeff Murcko told the Times.