Chill Out in Justin Bettman’s Living Room Project in Times Square

Bettman sets the scene on one of the city's biggest public stages.


Justin Bettman quietly began building sets on the streets of New York last summer, setting up fully furnished rooms, enacting a quick photo shoot and then leaving it all behind for New Yorkers to enjoy, whether they took pictures of their own or carted the furniture back to their own apartments. He has since worked his magic in Bushwick, Chelsea, the Lower East Side, and now Times Square (see JR Makes Surprise Visit to Justin Bettman’s Times Square Living Room Installation).

Somewhere along the way, Times Square Arts director Sherry Dobbin caught wind of Bettman’s work, and asked him to stage a project to celebrate the opening of the Tribeca Film Festival (April 15–26). For the artist, who’d previously been limited to completing his shoots guerrilla-style, the city’s biggest stage was an irresistible invitation.

“I asked Justin to consider what might be different about #SetintheStreet in Times Square, and how he might do something representing all five boroughs,” Dobbin told artnet News. At Dobbin’s suggestion, the furnishings were sourced from all over the city, with the help of Craigslist, friends, a 15-passenger van, and bedbug repellent. For example, Bettman picked up the rocking chair in Sheepshead Bay, and the mustard yellow couch from somewhere along Central Park West.

“What I love about Justin’s work is that it pushes your own creativity, his piece is half of the process,” French street artist JR told artnet News (see Artists JR and Daniel Arsham Take on the Tribeca Film Festival). He visited the installation in the early Wednesday morning, posing with actors outfitted to match the mid-century tableau.

When Bettman began setting up at 4:30 on Wednesday morning, Times Square was as quiet as Times Square ever gets. By midday, the living room was open to the public, with locals and tourists alike lining up to experience a little bit of art.

“It lets people be their own videographer, photographer, and take a film still in the set,” said Bettman.

Justin Bettman’s #SetintheStreet is on view in Times Square April 15–19. A second set will be erected at Spring Street and Varick Street on April 20, weather permitting.

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