Against the Grain

The artists came out in spades—and with them, too—for Creative Time’s second annual sand castle competition.


Last Friday, a muggy, forbiddingly gray afternoon at Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York, didn’t deter the competitors of Creative Time’s second annual sand castle building competition. Judged by a panel that included MoMA’s Klaus Biesenbach (who brought BFF James Franco for a brief frolic), curator/collector Dana Farouki, and Waris Ahluwalia, 10 artist-led teams executed elaborately planned structures that were only distantly related to the dense, uncooperative mounds of sand that have left many a child, and their parents, frustrated.

Some, like artist/designer Sebastian Errazuriz, sought an elegiac tone. He gave substance to our post-9/11 dread, outlining an airplane on the sand, and then darkening it, with water, into a trompe l’oeil shadow. It was simple, smart, and maybe too subtle: a beachgoer studied the piece for a moment before commenting, “It looks like someone just peed in the sand.”

Others, like the art duo Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was, better known as Ghost of a Dream, opted for pageantry. They built a platform out of sand and posed atop it in gold bodysuits—human trophies angling for first-place. (Later, they stormed the water at a full sprint with an entourage of shrieking, gold-suited men and women. A lifeguard, unfazed by this uncommon sight, immediately began blowing his whistle.)

The winning entry, Jamie Isenstein’s “Disappearing Sculptures,” composed of three hard-packed columns of sand, atop which she placed ice, bubbles, and a man in cutoffs playing the sax, was a comment on ephemerality—appropriate for art destined to be washed away.

In the end, there was only one actual castle: Duke Riley and his team made a replica of a White Castle, complete with a drive-in window. They even attempted to bribe the judges with sliders (they came in third place), but perhaps they were appealing to the wrong demographic. Said one bystander, “I would have voted for them if they made a Crave Case out of sand.” Next year, maybe there will be a People’s Choice Award.

Creative Time’s sand castle contest

Christopher Robbins

Duke Riley

Esperanza Mayobre

Ghost of a Dream

Jamie Isenstein

The Judges

Marc Andre Robinson

Rachel Owens