Our 6 Favorite Public Art Shows

From Jeff Koons to Kara Walker.

Gimhongsok, Bearlike Construction.
Photo: Courtesy of NYC Parks.

The hazy days of New York City in summer are upon us, so it’s time to seek shelter in the shade of some public art. While we’ve already reviewed many of the year’s outdoor art projects, here are a few more, from the bold-faced names in Midtown and Williamsburg to group shows of emerging artists on Randall’s and Governors Islands.


Kara Walker, A Subtlety (2014)
Photo: Jason Wyche, courtesy Creative Time.

Kara Walker at the Domino Sugar Refinery, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, closes July 7
From the complicated questions about racism, sexism, and capitalism that it raises, to its apparently universal appeal as a backdrop for selfies, Walker’s sugar-coated sphinx poses a beguiling and irresistible riddle. If you only see one public artwork in 2014, make it this—the long lines and waiting times are well worth it.



Jeff Koons, Split-Rocker (2000). Installation at Fondation Beyeler, Basel.
© Jeff Koons. Photo: Jean-Jacques Nobs, courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Jeff Koons at Rockefeller Center, Manhattan, opens June 25 and closes September 12
Because, let’s face it, the Whitney’s building was made in an era of relative modesty, and Koons specializes in making immodestly large spectacles, it’s surprising there aren’t more works spilling over from his retrospective and rocking around Rockefeller Center. But, in any case, by way of a special project between Gagosian and the Public Art Fund, the massive, blooming Chia Pet Split-Rocker (2000) will take root there this summer.



Gimhongsok, Bearlike Construction (2012)
Photo: Courtesy NYC Parks.

Gimhongsok in Tribeca Park, Manhattan, closes November 21
Remember how strange it was when Urs Fischer’s giant yellow teddy bear was installed outside the Seagram Building some summers ago? Well Korean sculptor Gimhongsok’s take on the childhood staple is markedly different, from its closer-to-real life scale to its strange proportions—achieved by creating a bronze cast from a makeshift teddy assembled from garbage bags. His Bearlike Construction, in other words, is at once playful and the stuff of nightmares.



Dean Monogenis, City Pillars (2014)
Photo: Courtesy: FLOW.14, via Facebook.

FLOW.14 on Randall’s Island, closes November 15
Remember Randall’s Island? It’s where you focus all your attention every year for a few days in early May, and then never set foot again? Well it turns out that the island not only continues to exist after the Frieze Tent comes down, but there’s even art out there in the off season. This annual showcase of outdoor sculpture boasts works by four artists this year, ranging from Kant Smith’s chain link house and Dean Monogenis’s Daniel Buren-esque striped plinths, to Robert Raphael’s drippy ceramic columns and Jessica Sanders’s grassy blobs.



Bundith Phunsombatlert, Wayfinding: 100 NYC Public Sculptures
Courtesy the artist.

Bundith Phunsombatlert in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, closes November 15
Remember that day when you were a kid (or maybe in your 20s) and you realized that if a genie ever granted you a wish, the smartest thing to do would be to wish for an infinite number of wishes? Well, this is the public art equivalent of that. Using GPS coordinates and very convincing replicas of National Park Service signs, the New York–based Thai artist has installed signs pointing parkgoers to iconic outdoor artworks all over the city. His Wayfinding: 100 NYC Public Sculptures is essentially a public sculpture that “contains” every other public sculpture.



An installation from Figment NYC 2013
Courtesy Figment NYC.

Figment NYC, Governors Island, closes September 12
Every year, in addition to a giant sculpture made of recycled materials and an artist-designed mini-golf course, Figment NYC brings a slate of large-scale interactive sculptures to the island between Brooklyn and Manhattan. This year’s roster includes a life-size sculpture of a giraffe made up chalkboard triangles (by A Touch of Modern) where visitors are invited to render their visions of the future, a junk art armory of weapons made from salvaged materials—an allusion to the island’s longtime role as a military base—by Oreen Cohen, and a cluster of motion detector–activated, solar-powered traffic lights (by David Aronson) that are not to be trusted.

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