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Putin and the High Line

One doesn’t naturally associate Vladimir Putin with the High Line, but once upon a time he was a stakeholder here. Back in 2000 Lukoil, the giant Russian oil conglomerate, purchased Getty Oil and its 1,300 gas stations, including a small one on 24th Street and Tenth Avenue. Putin himself attended the grand opening, and it was widely reported that he enjoyed a Krispy Creme donut under the shadow of the still-abandoned High Line.

Lukoil gas station on 24th Street & Tenth Avenue, February 2012

Lukoil gas station on 24th Street & Tenth Avenue, February 2012

Ian Frazier, in his 2011 book Travels in Siberia, notes that the name Lukoil comes from the three petroleum fields the company operates in western Siberia: Langepaz, Urengoi and Kogalym. “Now when I want a whiff of distant Siberia,” Frazier wrote, “I just go to the nearest Lukoil and fill ‘er up.”

But no more; it turns out that Russian oil is no match for art in West Chelsea. In 2013 the Lukoil gas station closed and became an outdoor gallery. The image below shows the inaugural exhibition, “Sheep Station,” featuring the work — 25 epoxy stone and bronze “Moutons” — of late artist François-Xavier Lalanne.

Getty Station, 24th Street & Tenth Avenue, October 2013

Getty Station, 24th Street & Tenth Avenue, October 2013

Like virtually every other little patch of land along the High Line, this one has a story to tell, and its main theme is change. The first edition of On the Line included a short essay titled “Automobile Row,” which reported on the “high ratio of automobiles to humans” and the car-centric character of West Chelsea, which made it a particularly easy place to park, repair, gas up, wash, or purchase a luxury car. But commercial and residential development are rapidly re-writing the local landscape, and since the first edition came out most of the old car shops and garages are gone.  Perhaps the most telling example of change is the gas station that became an outdoor art gallery. “Automobile Row” was cut from the second edition of the book. Pretty soon Getty Station itself will yield to the unstoppable force of change, as it’s transformed into that other mainstay of the new High Line ‘hood: a “premiere collection of luxury residences.” E.g., a condo.

Meanwhile, as Putin rattles his sabre in Ukraine, it’s fun to imagine what he would make of all those sheep invading his Manhattan stronghold.

Related Link: Press release announcing inaugural exhibition at Getty Station, “Sheep Station”

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