Quench your thirst with city water, delivered with artistry

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2008 - 11:04 PM

Thirsty?

Good news. The mayor of Minneapolis wants new drinking fountains -- 10 of them, scattered about town -- each one heralding a return to the city of yore, where water gushed on every corner.

Cost? Well, you could buy a fleet of Escalades and hire someone to drive around tossing bottles of Evian, and you wouldn't spend much more.

The new fountains will be designed by artists, and that bumps up the price tag a bit. From $4,000 ... to $50K. Each. Half-a-million for the artistic fountains, paid for by your water bills and property taxes. So, you ask, was Michelangelo cloned using Jurassic Park-style technology, and he's demanding the finest Italian marble or he'll walk off the project and sue? Because that might explain it.

Not exactly. We won't know until the designs are unveiled next week. Based on the standard array of artistic styles, though, you may soon sip from one of these:

The Norman Rockwell Fountain: It delivers water the way you really like it, crisp and clean and fresh. Has large quote marks on each side, so you can enjoy it ironically.

The Jackson Pollack Fountain: Just sprays water all over the place. Gets on your shirt, your pants, everywhere. Your kid could do this, especially if he puts bubble gum in the spout.

The Cubist Fountain: You have to get your mouth and eyes on one side of your nose to drink.

The Surrealist Fountain: Shaped like a urinal, does not give water at all. (Note: This will be expensive to maintain, as the city will have to check to see that it is properly functioning and does not give water.)

The Baroque Fountain: 9 feet tall, made of marble; you drink from the streams of six cherubs who are perpetually relieving themselves. (That's the one the cloned Michelangelo is doing, and he's quite happy with the quality of marble, so no worries there.)

The Andy Warhol: It's a plain, ordinary drinking fountain in every way, but somehow Warhol manages to make you look at it anew, consider how we take for granted the commonplace and the functional, and see the art inherent in our commercialized world.

Oh, wait -- that's just a plain, ordinary drinking fountain; the Warhol one is over here. It's the same thing but it has his signature.

The Jeff Koons: The Warhol one, with silver paint.

The Impressionist: No water, just mist.

The Abstract Impressionist: It delivers a cool, refreshing stream of caustic lye, which confounds your bourgeois preconceptions, doesn't it? Art must be dangerous. Art must be rude.

The Performance Artist: A naked guy slathered with Froot Loops standing there with a hose.

The Claus Oldenburg: Just like a regular fountain, but 46 feet tall.

And a few others, which will no doubt be a bright addition to the city landscape. But why not build big, splashing water fountains in public areas? They communicate the "city of water" idea better than passive spouts, but we don't seem to build fountains anymore.

I'd love to see a big fountain downtown, built in the style of Trevi: Paul Bunyan in the middle, flanked by Prince and Mary Tyler Moore, gushers of water pouring from the mouths of loons and gophers.

That says Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, fountains are also expensive; they break, and the city has had problems just keeping the old fountains working.

That says Minneapolis, too.

And if an expensive new fountain breaks, we can just say, "That's the one designed by a mime."

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 More daily at www.startribune.com/buzz

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