Aspen Skiing Co. keeps it in the family for public art installation |

Aspen Skiing Co. keeps it in the family for public art installation

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Paula Crown's sculpture "Jokester" on gondola plaza.
Aspen Skiing Co/Courtesy photo

Artist Paula Crown and the Aspen Skiing Co. unveiled a massive sculpture of a crushed red plastic Solo cup Saturday on gondola plaza at the base of Aspen Mountain.

The jarringly realistic cup sculpture aims to call attention to the waste created and environmental peril posed by single-use plastic, using the familiar form of a cup many associate with festive social occasions such as college keggers or kid’s birthday parties.

“This cup is about fun and it’s about joy and it’s about how we are in the world,” Crown said at the unveiling Saturday morning. “But it’s also a big red ‘stop’ sign. We need to stop and think about what we do.”

The artist is the wife of Skico managing partner Jim Crown, whose family has owned the company since 1993. He revealed the sculpture with Skico CEO Mike Kaplan — together unzipping a tent that sheathed the minibus-sized plastic cup. The unveiling followed a clubby reception Saturday morning attended by the top executives of the Aspen Institute — where Jim Crown is chairman of the board of trustees — along with leaders from the Aspen Music Festival and School, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, the city of Aspen and Skico representatives.

Titled “Jokester,” the new sculpture is part of Paula Crown’s ongoing “Solo Together” body of work playing with the Solo cup form. Skico also used Crown’s Solo cup work for its winter 2017-18 lift tickets, which featured five photos of smaller sculptures.

The company tapped Paula Crown for the lift ticket project after ending its 12-year partnership with the Aspen Art Museum selecting artists for the lift tickets as part of its “Art in Unexpected Places” program, which publicly exhibits art on the four local Skico-operated mountains and has showcased works by contemporary artists like Cai Guo-Qiang, Susan Philipsz, Tom Sachs and Shinique Smith.

Kaplan said that when he was looking for an artist whose work represented Skico’s mission, his boss’s wife was the clear choice.

“Picking the artist is a big deal — it’s not easy,” Kaplan told the assembled crowd. “And working with Jim a lot on this, you can imagine Jim and I talking about this, it’s quite an interesting conversation and lively and engaging. It’s one where you’ve really got to stretch. As we were looking for the artist this year, I would say it was hidden in plain sight.”

Paula Crown’s “Solo Together” work, he said, was a natural fit with SkiCo’s values-based marketing campaign “The Aspen Way” and with its ongoing advocacy for environmental sustainability and against climate change.

“Having known Paula a for 25 years, knowing her as somebody who really internalizes her values and her beliefs and does not stop finding ways to articulate them, embraces them and makes sure they’re front and center,” he said. “You know where she stands. And her embrace of environmentalism and political activism — you look at those three things and, in this day and age and where this company is today, it’s a total no-brainer.”

The artist’s “Solo Together” project has drawn the attention of the international art world beyond Aspen and outside of her husband’s company. Her “Architecture of Memory” installation, which scatters 250 sculptures of crushed red Solo cups across a gallery floor, has recently been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, at 10 Hanover in London and at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Illinois.

She said she hopes to tour the massive “Jokester” sculpture after its stay at the base of Aspen Mountain.

“If you told me three years ago I’d be in front of this 10-foot Solo cup at the base of Aspen Mountain, I would have shaken my head vigorously,” she said. “It’s taken on a life of its own.”

Paula Crown also is attending the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Ideas Festival this week, representing the artist-run political nonprofit For Freedoms, of which she is a member and to which she has contributed artwork. The group, founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, held an open house Sunday night at the Doerr-Hosier Center. Crown will open a new exhibition at the group’s New York headquarters this week.