The first edition of ON THE HIGH 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. In one of the most telling examples of change, a gas station adjacent to the High Line recently became an outdoor art gallery. “Automobile Row” was cut from the second edition, but you can click the image at right to read the original piece.
Like virtually every other little patch of land along the High Line, this one has a story to tell. The Getty Station that operated here in the 1990s was replaced in 2003 by Lukoil, a giant Russian oil conglomerate that bought Getty Oil. Vladimir Putin himself attended the grand opening, and it was widely reported that he enjoyed a Krispy Creme donut under the shadow of the still-ababonded High Line.
Ian Frazier, in his 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 in 2011, “I just go to the nearest Lukoil and fill ‘er up.”
But no more; Frazier will have to go back to Saks Fifth Avenue and inhale the scent of sable furs to get his Russian madeleine, because today the Lukoil Station is an art gallery.
The image above shows the inaugural exhibition, “Sheep Station,” featuring the work — 25 epoxy stone and bronze “Moutons” — of late artist François-Xavier Lalanne. The Getty Gas station, later the Lukoil Station, has today become, in the grand tradition of modern West Chelsea, and outdoor art gallery.
It’s hard to imagine what Vladimir Putin would think of all these sheep invading his Manhattan stronghold.