See New York’s Most Stunning Public Art Shows This Spring
Don't miss these urban treasures.
Despite the fluctuations in temperature, the change in seasons in undeniable: Spring is here at last!
In honor of the onset of warmer weather, we’ve rounded up the city’s most exciting art installations, just as we’ve done the last two years. From Central Park and the High Line to Rockefeller Center and Park Avenue, here’s the lowdown on what to put on your to-see list.
1. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Blind Idealism Is…), the High Line
In her new mural for the High Line, conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, known for her declarative statements relayed in large, clear letters, adapts a quote from Frantz Fanon. Where the Afro-Caribbean philosopher said “Blind idealism is reactionary,” Kruger crosses out the final word, replacing it first with “scary,” and then “deadly”. It’s a message that is reverberates in our current election season.
The High Line, West 22nd Street between 10th and 12th Avenue; March 21, 2016–March 2017.
2. “Martin Creed: Understanding,” Brooklyn Bridge Park
For their annual presentation in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Public Art Fund will erect the largest public sculpture to date by British artist Martin Creed, who will have a gigantic show at the Park Avenue Armory opening in June.
Standing 25 feet tall, Work No. 2630, UNDERSTANDING (2016), is a rotating ruby red neon sign that will slowly make its thought-provoking message visible from both sides of the East River.
Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 May 4–October 23, 2016.
3. “Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better,” Public Art Fund, Houston and Mott Streets
The Public Art Fund is capitalizing on Peter Fischli and David Weiss‘s current Guggenheim Museum retrospective by hosting the first presentation in the US of the artist’s 1991 wall mural How to Work Better.
The hand-painted ten-point list of enthusiastic life advice originally came from a bulletin board in a ceramic factory Fischli and Weiss encountered nearly 30 years ago during a visit to Thailand.
Houston and Mott Streets; February 5–May 1, 2016.
4. Various Artists, “Wanderlust,” the High Line
For the second year in a row, the High Line brings together 11 artists for a group show, this time featuring Marie Lorenz, Tony Matelli, Paulo Nazareth, Mike Nelson, Roman Ondák, Susan Philipsz, and Rayyane Tabet.
Among the included artworks is Matelli’s infamous sleepwalker, a bronze sculpture of a man in his underwear that was vandalized at Massachusetts’s Wellesley College in 2014, while Philipsz, known for her sound art work, is creating Lachrimae, a seven-part sound piece based on the image of a falling tear.
The High Line, various locations, Gansevoort to West 34th Street between 10th and 12th Avenue; April 21–March 2017.
5. “Elmgreen and Dragset: Van Gogh’s Ear,” Public Art Fund, Rockefeller Center
The Scandinavian artist duo will bring a 1950s style swimming pool to Rockefeller Center, courtesy the Public Art Fund. Don’t get any ideas about going for a dip though, as the pool will stand on its head. Transformed by the unusual configuration, the artwork will appear more like a flying saucer than what you find outside a typical suburban California home.
The Fifth Avenue entrance to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center; April 13–June 3, 2016.
6. “Isa Genzken: Two Orchids,” Central Park
Spring sprung early in Central Park, with Isa Genzken planting a pair of monumental white orchids for the Public Art Fund. Measuring 28 and 34 feet tall, the sculptures, with their unnatural height, serve as a reminder that in the age of globalization tropical flowers are now grown all over the world.
Central Park, Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Fifth Avenue at 60th Street; March 1–August 21, 2016.
7. Harry H. Gordon, “Mass Medium,” Garment District Plaza
As usual, the Garment District Plaza got a jump start on the 2016 public art scene, erecting five colossal, 25,000-pound granite sculptures on Broadway back in January. There’s still a couple weeks left to catch the works, carved by sculptor Harry H. Gordon from large granite fragments discarded by the stone industry. Inspired by the city’s skyscrapers, the sculptures function as a large-scale addition to the urban landscape.
Garment District Plaza, Broadway between 36th and 41st Street, January 18–April 15; 2016.
8. Various Artists, “Landmark,” Socrates Sculpture Park
In celebration of its 30th birthday, Socrates Sculpture Park welcomes eight artist projects from Abigail DeVille, Brendan Fernandes, Cary Leibowitz, Jessica Segall, Casey Tang, the curatorial collective ARTPORT_making waves, and Hank Willis Thomas, headlined by Concave Room for Bees, a newly-commissioned earth work by Meg Webster. The piece, a circular earth bowl comprising 300 cubic yards of soil, will be planted with flowers, herbs, and shrubs, and will evolve throughout the season.
Visitors to the park will be greeted by another Broadway Billboard: Thomas’s From Cain’t See in the Mornin’ Till Cain’t See at Night (from Strange Fruit).
Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, Queens; May 8–August 28, 2016.
9. Various Artists, “Faraway So Close,” the High Line
Video art and public art don’t often go together, but every night beginning at 5:00 p.m., the High Line presents video works from Paloma Polo, Rä di Martino, David Maljkovic, and Mario Garcia Torres, grouped together on the theme of artists rewriting history.
High Line Channel 14, 14th Street Passage between 10th and 12th Avenue; March 10–April 27, 2016.
10. Tom Friedman, Looking Up, Park Avenue
Don’t forget to tilt your head skyward next time you find yourself on Park Avenue in the 50s, where Tom Friedman‘s whimsical 33-foot-tall figure, Looking Up, stands tall.
Formed from crushed aluminum foil roasting pans and cast in stainless steel, the project is a joint presentation by New York’s Luring Augustine, London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery, New York City Parks, and the Fund for Park Avenue. (Another edition of the sculpture is permanently on view the Contemporary Austin.)
Park Avenue between East 53rd and 54th Streets; January–July 15, 2016.
11. Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, Sky
The only upside to another uber-luxury building for those of us not rich enough to live in it is the permanent installation of one of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic bronze pumpkins. Weighing in at 2,668 pounds, the pumpkin sculptures took the Japanese artist two years to develop, and were first shown at London’s Victoria Miro Gallery.
Sky, 605 West 42nd Street; opening May 3.
12. Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, Columbia University
A new permanent public artwork from a key 20th-century British sculptor would seem like an unquestionable asset for the city, but a Henry Moore work set to be unveiled on the uptown campus has met with considerable backlash among the student community.
The modernist piece, which is inspired by the form of a lounging woman, has not found fans among undergrads used to the school’s more neo-classically inclined statuary, but Moore fans are elated.
Columbia University, outside the Butler Library, ongoing.
13. Martin Puryear, Big Bling, Madison Square Park
American artist Martin Puryear’s upcoming project for the Madison Square Park Conservancy, a tiered wooden structure, will tower over the park like a 40-foot-tall roller coaster. The project will be the artist’s largest temporary outdoor sculpture to date, blocked off to the public by a chain link fence, and topped with a golden shackle.
Madison Square Park, Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street, May 16, 2016–January 8, 2017.
14. Amanda Parer, Intrude, Winter Garden
The five massive, illuminated, inflatable bunny sculptures touring North America are scheduled to touch down in New York later this month, with two even larger rabbits joining the original quintet for the occasion. The downside: The adorable animals have actually become an invasive pest in Australia, and the artwork is meant as a reminder of the negative impact human behavior can have on the natural world.
Winter Garden, Brookfield Place, 200 Vesey Street; April 17–30, 2016.
15. Bernar Venet, Disorder: 9 Uneven Angles, Union Square Plaza
Paul Kasmin Gallery has teamed up with the Union Square Partnership and the city’s Department of Transportation to transform a highly-trafficked intersection at Union Square with a piece by France’s Barnar Venet. Nine intersecting Cor-ten steel beams from the artist’s 2015 “Disorder” series form a monumental 25-foot-tall work that features the severe, angular shapes that have characterized Venet’s oeuvre since the 1970s.
An accompanying exhibition of Venet’s new “Angle” sculpture series will be on view at Kasmin’s 551 West 27th Street space, April 28–June 18, 2016.
Union Square Plaza, East 17th Street and Broadway; February 22–June 22, 2016.
16. Beverly Pepper, My Circle, Union Square
To honor sculptor Beverly Pepper’s 93rd birthday, New York’s Marlborough Gallery and the Union Square Partnership have teamed up with the city’s Art in the Parks program to present this oxidized Cor-Ten steel statue from her “Curvae” series of curved forms. Standing 14 feet tall, My Circle is a reference to the Enso character in Zen Buddhism, which has different meanings depending on whether it is open or closed.
Union Square Park at East 14th Street and Union Square East; October 23, 2015–May 31, 2016.
17. Suprina Kenney, DNA Totem, Marcus Garvey Park
Harlem artist Suprina Kenney has crafted a 10-foot-tall helix-shaped spiral from garbage, found materials, and objects donated by the local community. The juxtaposition of waste products with the symbol of life itself is meant as a commentary on the culture of conspicuous consumption.
Marcus Garvey Park, at 5th Avenue and West 120th Street; March 28–September 30, 2016.
18. Henry Kielmanowicz, The Space Between Us, First Park
This solar-powered crescent moon sculpture, mounted on a curved pole, glows green at night thanks to LEDs. The artist works largely with discarded man-made objects, and has painstakingly created the piece from crushed glass and resin.
First Park 49 East 1st Street; December 15–May 2016.
19. Mazeredo, “Dialogue,” Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
From the Brazilian artist’s “Dialogue for Peace” sculpture series, which has been personally blessed by Pope Francis, Mazeredo’s statues Babel, Butterfly, Dialogue, and Communication stand in a row on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. The abstract shapes are the artist’s visual interpretations of sounds she hears in her native country.
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 47th Street between 2nd and 1st Avenues; November 30, 2015–May 1, 2016.
20. Mary Ann Unger, Unfurling, MoMA PS1 Greenstreet
On loan from Chelsea’s Maxwell Davidson Gallery, Mary Ann Unger‘s aluminum sculpture, Unfurling, will spend much of 2016 directly across the entrance from MoMA PS1. The work’s spiral shape is reminiscent of the nautilus, a mollusk with shell that grows in harmony with the Fibonacci sequence.
MoMA PS 1 Greenstreet, 46th Ave. and Jackson Avenue, Long Island City; May 16–October 24, 2016.
21. Various Artists, “Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016,” Jamaica Avenue
“Jamaica Flux” looks to engage local community members with a series of public art installations dotting Jamaica Avenue. The project, co-curated by project Hen-gil Han and independent curator Kalia Brooks, features 16 artists and three artist collectives, all of whom have been tasked with creating new site-specific work. Participants include duo John H. Locke and Joaquin Reyes, whose Inflato Dumpster transforms a humble dumpster into public space through the addition of a spacious inflatable membrane roof.
Various locations along Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica, Queens; April 16–June 4, 2016.
21. Various Artists, FLOW.16, Randall’s Island
Frieze isn’t the only reason to visit Randall’s Island this spring: This annual outdoor public sculpture show scatters work from five artists (Tim Clifford, Tracie Hervy, Samantha Holmes, Michael Shultis, Denise Treizman) around the island’s southern tip. Shultis will erect a field goal post that incorporates a net, conflating American and European football, while Holmes will build traditional Scottish cairns—stacked stone pillars that will stand watch along the river.
Randall’s Island; May 17–August 30.
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