VIDEO: New Times Square Installation Provokes Tourists

Cuban artist Arlés del Rio tests freedom of movement.


From now until August 18th, visitors to Times Square will see—and interact with—something unexpected: 17 sections of chain-link fence, scattered around the Europeanized plazas of New York’s most famous hub. Each is pierced with one or more silhouette-shaped hole, rimmed in bright, construction-site orange, so that passersby can actually walk through the sculpture as they cross through Times Square.

These artworks are collectively called Nearness, and are the brainchild of Cuban artist Arlés del Rio. Manufactured in Cuba, the sculptures are in fact not real sections of chain-link fences, but meticulously sculpted out of copper, and painted. They are the product of nine months of collaboration between the artist and the Times Square Alliance.

“This is our fifth collaboration with the Cuban Artist Fund, looking at artists who often wouldn’t have the ability to show potentially in the United States and putting them on one of the most public platforms,” explains Sherry Dobbin of Times Square Arts.

The obvious themes of Nearness are separation and connection, taking something that normally divides people and turning it into a passage—a theme that might have some particular poignancy in the case of a Cuban artist, given the difficulties of movement between the US and Cuba. At the same time, Dobbin says, the work has particular significance in the location of Times Square, which is undergoing its own process of transformation and reconstruction.

As for the vast numbers of pedestrians that flow through Times Square each day, whether or not the themes of Nearness register or resonate, the work is definitely a hit. Says Dobbin, “The public has been engaging with it so much that we’ve had to deal with a lot more maintenance that we anticipated.”

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics

artnet and our partners use cookies to provide features on our sites and applications to improve your online experience, including for analysis of site usage, traffic measurement, and for advertising and content management. See our Privacy Policy for more information about cookies. By continuing to use our sites and applications, you agree to our use of cookies.

Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In