What Was a $12 Million Golden Cube Doing in Central Park?

A mysterious golden cube that appeared in Central Park earlier this week became the talk of New York’s art world—and it slyly nods to the power of capital.

The Castello Cube in Central Park. Photography by Sandra Mika

On Wednesday, a mysterious golden cube appeared on a mound of icy slush in Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell amphitheater. Composed entirely of 410 pounds of 24-karat Nevadan gold, the $11.7 million cube is the brainchild of German pop artist Niclas Castello, who claims to be the first artist in history to cast such an enormous amount of gold into a single pure object. To create the sculpture, Castello sourced gold from a UBS Bank in Switzerland and paid a centuries-old bell foundry in Aarau to shape it into a cube—a highly technical process that required a special handmade kiln that could withstand the extreme temperatures needed to melt it. In total, it took more than 4,500 hours of labor. 

Anticipation for the Castello Cube was high: a marketing campaign involved a wraparound ad in the New York Times, and curious viewers had mere hours to see it firsthand before it disappeared. (That evening, it was moved to Cipriani Wall Street for a celebratory black-tie dinner attended by celebrities and the art-world cognoscenti.) But was it worth the hype? Though few people can say they’ve ever been around that much gold before, onlookers described the knee-high cube’s appearance as beguilingly plain, if not underwhelming. Others pointed to the immense privilege and capital it requires to pull off such a stunt.

Castello described the cube to Artnet News as “a conceptual work of art in all its facets,” and noted that his idea was to “create something that’s beyond our world—that’s intangible.” To wit, the cube seems to be driving anticipation for Castello’s upcoming cryptocurrency, called the Castello Coin ($CAST), that he plans to launch alongside NFTs of the physical artwork later this month. 

Critics are still digesting how the glimmering object factors into the art industry’s fraught history of irreverent stunts. If anything, the Castello Cube seems like a slightly less self-aware successor to Maurizio Cattelan’s infamous Art Basel banana or Marcel Duchamp’s gilded urinal. Or perhaps it’s just a sign of the end times.

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