The Scoop

Mysterious Montauk Rock Made by Artist, Not Ancients or Aliens

A mysterious rock that resurfaced in the Montauk surf received some attention this week from local press, but it turns out the rock isn’t such a mystery after all.

A pair of locals shared their pictures of the rock, which surfaced during a particularly low tide on the summer solstice this June, and got front page coverage, asking whether its spiral carvings might be from pre-Columbian Celtic druids, a vestige of the legendary goings on at Camp Hero or an Atlantean artifact. In fact, the rock is none of those things. A quick bit of asking around and look on the internet revealed that it is actually a piece of art created in 2004 by sculptor Ken Hiratsuka, who is well known for creating these maze-like carvings everywhere. His work can be seen in 19 countries around the globe—from the streets of New York City to the woods in his hometown in the Catskills; to New Smyrna Beach in Florida; to Cartagena, Columbia; to Nagano in Japan; to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia; to Rio de Janeiro and, of course, to Montauk Point, to name just a few.

Ken Hiratsuka carving in Yamanashi, Japan (1986)
Ken Hiratsuka carving in Yamanashi, Japan (1986), Photo: AZUMI

Hiratsuka, who started his career carving the streets of New York, says his stone works  are always formed by one continuous line that never crosses itself. He refers to his creations as “fossils of the moment.” They are “a statement of art’s capacity to transcend the differences of nations and languages,” Hiratsuka explains. “They are both modern and ancient, a symbol of human communication through universal language on the surface of the earth as one huge rock.”

In an artist’s statement, Hiratsuka adds, “I hope that those who see my work will discover new aspects of life, deeper levels of experience of which they may be only dimly aware. I want to inspire people to become more conscious of nature and our common humanity. No matter how lifestyles change, the basic self remains the same. I want to help bring human beings together. In my art there are no social, economic, cultural or political distinctions. We are all one.”

Artist Ken Hiratsuka carving the mysterious Montauk rock in 2004
Artist Ken Hiratsuka carving the mysterious Montauk rock in 2004, Photo: Ivory Serra

The Montauk carving, titled “Drifted Coral,” is in granite and measures about 3 x 6 x 6 feet. Hiratsuka lists it as a private commission. Perhaps it was paid for by some wealthy art fan in the area?

Last year, famous auctioneers Sothebys listed a 2004 photo diptych by Montauk resident and world famous photographer Peter Beard, who lives atop the bluffs nearby, featuring two photos of Hiratsuka and the rock, which he titled “Ken’s Rock, Driftwood Cove.” The piece (seen here) is signed, dated and inscribed “For Noel from Ken + Peter (Beard)” in blue ink with ink drawing on the top left corner and collaged photograph of gorilla on the bottom right corner.

Hiratsuka wouldn’t be the first artist to create site-specific work in the area—several of Beard’s creative visitors have made work near his home or on the beach below the bluffs there, but none so permanent as “Drifted Coral.”

And because of that permanence, exactly as intended by Hiratsuka, it’s likely “Drifted Coral” will boggle minds and raise question again in the not too distant future, and again, and again after that.

To see more of Ken Hiratsuka’s rock carvings, visit kenrock.com.

Ken Hiratsuka 2008 carving at 25 Bond Street in NYC, Photo: Courtesy Ken Hiratsuka
Ken Hiratsuka 2008 carving at 25 Bond Street in NYC, Photo: Courtesy Ken Hiratsuka
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