On Space: Leonardo Drew

We’re honored to be the home of artist Leonardo Drew’s striking installation Number 197, on view now in Wilsey Court, the museum's atrium, through October 29. Through his use of natural materials, Drew’s many enormous sculptures utilize the expanse of space and spatial dynamics, making a substantial impact on viewers. Read on to learn more about Drew's experience in San Francisco and his thoughts on the de Young’s unique setting:

Installation of “Number 197” by Leonardo Drew

What was your first impression of Wilsey Court?

It’s really overwhelming. It's gigantic. I do big art, but this I would say is probably my biggest. And you need something to take on the dynamic of this space. You have a three-point perspective, and you have these three walls that are begging to be challenged by someone who’s up for it.

Your selection of someone able to take on and actually fulfill the needs of this space can be daunting. I mean, it’s no joke. It’s a crazy space. It’s the kind of space that makes me salivate, so I’m not running.

Is this your first time in the de Young? What was your impression of the museum building itself?

Yeah, absolutely my first time. It’s magnificent, the grounds, the architecture, all these things. But honestly, I think you guys needed an injection and that’s what I am—let’s be blunt. [Laughter]

"I think you guys needed an injection and that’s what I am—let’s be blunt."

Installation of “Number 197” by Leonardo Drew

To pull the camera back even a little bit further, is there anything about San Francisco, California, or the West, that affects your work?

These things don't just go through your eyes, they go through your pores, so my trips here, staying in Napa or Sonoma, working on things there, actually shipping trees from Napa back to Brooklyn, it plays into my spiritual aesthetic, how I realize things. We have to actually become nature. These things are a part of us, we are not separate from them. Like I said it’s not just through your eyes, it’s through your pores, so stuff goes in and you have to give it back. This is what I’m giving back.

We’ve been pulling up trees and shipping the root sections, so it’s a huge undertaking, dragging them back to New York and reworking them into works of art. Obviously your flora and fauna are different from what we have there, and plus you can’t go around ripping up Central Park getting trees. But in Sonoma and Napa, you can get at these things.

"These things don't just go through your eyes, they go through your pores, so my trips here, staying in Napa or Sonoma, working on things there, actually shipping trees from Napa back to Brooklyn, it plays into my spiritual aesthetic, how I realize things."

Installation of “Number 197” by Leonardo Drew

How do you see the relationship here, with the museum space and your work?

It should be in harmony! People have been coming here and they’ve been eating it up. Come October, it should be done in terms of taking it down, but it’ll be interesting to see how the public feels about it then. They’re in full appreciation of the change, so you will have to match that in the next one.

What kind of long-term change do you see this creating at the de Young?

[It] ups the ante! What you put up next will be compared to what was here before. As the Richter was here before, this will be compared to that. I mean, I love Richter, but he ain't beating this. I’m saying he can sit down. He’s a great artist, but he can sit down. [Laughter]

Installation of “Number 197” by Leonardo Drew

See Leonardo Drew’s Number 197 on view now in Wilsey Court through October 29.