New York City Wants Locals to Get Out and Enjoy Free Public Art Programs With a New Digital Resource

  • July 23, 2020 15:30

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Simone Leigh, Brick House, 2019. A High Line Plinth commission. Photo: Timothy Schenck. Courtesy, the High Line

NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the five boroughs of New York City, has just launched All In NYC: Public Art Edition, showcasing dozens of free, public art programs across the City for New Yorkers now, and eventually visitors, to safely explore, this summer and beyond. With some artworks already on view and others to be made available over the next year, the five-borough public works of art can be found at nycgo.com/publicart, a digital resource which includes an interactive map featuring the locations where the projects can be found, for members of the public to visit as they safely begin to explore the City once again.

Sarah Sze, Shorter Than the Day, 2020. Powder-coated aluminum and steel. Commissioned by LaGuardia Gateway Partners in partnership with Public Art Fund for LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B. Photo: Nicholas Knight. Courtesy of the artist; LaGuardia Gateway Partners; and the Public Fund, NY; © Sarah Sze

 “As New York City gradually emerges from the Covid-19 shutdown and more businesses begin to safely reopen, we encourage New Yorkers and those in the surrounding communities to take advantage of the many free, public art offerings that are located in their own backyard,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon. “We know how vital art is, not just to our city, but to those who will eventually return from around the globe to see our world-class cultural institutions. We are honored to present these extraordinary pieces through All In NYC: Public Art Edition beginning this summer and, in the months to come.”

FiveMyles: A Setting – Towards Sunset, Sara Jimenez and Jason Schwartz. Courtesy, FiveMyles

Public art is integral to the landscape of New York City. Sprouting up in parks, blanketing concrete walls and transforming streetscapes, such works have always been a true testament to the City’s uncontainable creative spirit. Now through 2021, the new exhibitions being presented will highlight the vision and talent of new artists, as well as some of the most accomplished artists of our time.

“I am honored to join my colleagues at dozens of New York cultural institutions and organizations who are coming together, at one of the most important moments in our city’s history, to bring the healing power of art to all New Yorkers,” said Adam Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art and member of The Coalition for NYC Hospitality & Tourism Recovery. “From the Black Lives Matter murals painted on iconic city streets, to David Hammons’ Days End installation on the Hudson River water front, art knows no boundaries. As the five boroughs begin the recovery process, All In NYC: Public Art Edition will bring together these accessible works of art free to the public.”

"New York City is home to a vibrant arts and culture community rooted deeply in its commitment to create and inspire,” said Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem and Co-Chair of The Coalition for NYC Hospitality & Tourism Recovery. “As we begin to heal from the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe being able to access these important and significant public art projects will bring New Yorkers a sense of global exploration around the five boroughs. I am proud The Studio Museum in Harlem is part of this project, along with so many other incredible New York City institutions.”

Jill Mulleady, We Wither Time into a Coil of Fright, 2019. Oil on linen, two panels, left panel: 66 1/8 x 35 3/8 in.; right panel: 66 1/8 x 78 3/4 in., reproduced as vinyl print on billboard. Collection of the artist

The following list includes examples of public art included in the program at launch, with more works to be added as museums and institutions install them through the end of next year. For more information, visit nycgo.com/publicart.

The Africa Center installed this three-story tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, wrapping for 45 feet around the Museum Mile building. The work includes the names of Black people who have been killed by police or who have died while being detained by law enforcement; it also thanks thanks workers on the front lines of the pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black people across the nation.

Concept rendering of Sam Moyer: Doors for Doris, on view starting September 2020 at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park. Courtesy, Sam Moyer Studio
  • Brookfield Place
  • The Last Straw by Jean Shin (Through September 18, 2020)
  • Taking its name from the phrase "the straw that breaks [or broke] the camel's back," The Last Straw takes a close look at plastic waste. It begins with a view from inside a straw and moves on to depictions of straws forming a wall, before using straws to showcase the flow of garbage throughout the world's oceans.
  • Floating MAiZE by Jean Shin (Through September 18, 2020)

MAiZE is inspired by vast, farmed landscapes of the American heartland and makes use of items normally discarded in typical agricultural production. Visitors enter Jean Shin’s sculpture through a staircase to be immersed in a virtual, floating landscape.

Maya Lin. Preparatory sketch for Ghost Forest, 2019/2020. Collection of the artist. Courtesy, Pace Gallery

French artist JR spent a month in 2018 photographing more than 1,000 subjects in front of a green screen. The artist and his team mixed the images of the people into a collage with NYC architectural landmarks. This mural accompanies the Brooklyn Museum’s installation JR: Chronicles, the first major exhibition of JR’s works in North America.

Near Green-Wood’s main entrance, artist Sophie Calle has created an ongoing site-specific installation in the form of a headstone. Visitors are invited to commit their secrets to paper and bury them in the artist’s plot. Over the project’s existence (through 2042), Calle will return periodically to exhume the paper and hold a ceremonial bonfire to dispose of the secrets.

  • FiveMyles
  • A Setting by Sara Jimenez and Jason Schwartz (Through August 30, 2020)

To allow visitors to experience artists’ work without physically entering the gallery, FiveMyles is presenting exhibits visible from the adjacent sidewalk. In A Setting, artists have filled a room with diaphanous fabric panels, creating a warm color gradient that invites the viewer to pause, reflect and lean into the soundtrack of peaceful recordings. The work is best viewed at sunset, when the fading light contrasts with the backlit colors of the installation.

Concept rendering of detail from Davina Semo: Reverberation, to be on view at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1. Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY.

Explore the outdoor space at Midtown’s Rockefeller Center to see a site-specific collection of sculpture. Six artists from around the globe- Ghada Amer, Beatriz Cortez, Andy Goldsworthy, Lena Henke, Camille Henrot and Thaddeus Mosley- contributed pieces. Curated by Brett Littman, director of Queens’ Isamu Noguchi Museum, the second edition of this program takes its cues from nature; indeed, it was meant to debut the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Rachel Whiteread, Cabin. Photo: Timothy Schenck

Brick House, the inaugural installation on the High Line Plinth, is a 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a black woman who is positioned to look down Tenth Avenue. Brick House is part of Leigh's Anatomy of Architecture series, which melds the human body with architectural forms from regions including West Africa and the American South. This particular piece references numerous architectural forms: Batammaliba structures from Benin and Togo; the teleuk (domelike dwellings) of the Mousgoum people of Cameroon and Chad; and the restaurant Mammy’s Cupboard in the southern US.

Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center. Courtesy, Tishman Speyer
  • Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy
  • Liberty Bell by Nancy Baker Cahill (Through July 2021)

Liberty Bell reflects on the evolution of liberty, freedom and democracy and encourages viewers to do the same. This augmented-reality abstract drawing, whose movements are accompanied by the sounds of the bells tolling, is to be experienced by heading to the specified outdoor locations and using the free 4th Wall app. The AR element leaves no environmental trace and can be enjoyed while social distancing.

Chloë Bass, How much of life is coping?, 2019. Mirrored stainless steel with frosted vinyl lettering, 120 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: SaVonne Anderson
  • The Laundromat Project
  • Mabuhay by Jaclyn Reyes, Xenia Diente, Princes “Diane” De Leon, Ezra Undag and Hannah Cera (Ongoing)

Artists Jaclyn Reyes, Xenia Diente, Princes “Diane” De Leon, Ezra Undag and Hannah Cera have painted a bright mural on the side wall of Amazing Grace restaurant in Queens’ Woodside neighborhood. The word Mabuhay, a Philippine greeting meaning “cheers,” “welcome” or “may you live,” is interwoven with two different types of plants: calamansi and sampaguita. The former is frequently given as comfort for mourners and also produces a small citrus fruit used in Philippine cuisine; sampaguita, or jasmine, signifies purity and renewal.

  • Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
  • ECHO EXHIBIT by Asiya Wadud (Ongoing)

Brooklyn based poet Asiya Wadud created a collaborative writing experience in which participants young and old (one credited collaborator is 6) talked with a writer over the phone for 15 minutes, the conversation serving as the catalyst for shaping a poem. The results, designed by fellow Brooklyn artist Shannon Finnegan, are on display throughout Manhattan’s Seaport District, including at Pier 17.

  • Madison Square Park Conservancy
  • Ghost Forest by Maya Lin (June 7–November 28, 2021)

Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest will be a towering stand of 40 tall, spectral Atlantic white cedar trees, a harsh symbol of the devastation of climate change. The dead trees, sourced from New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, will be spaced out on a grassy field in the park.

Comprising four bronze sculptures, The NewOnes, will free Us is the first artwork to occupy the four niches on the Met’s beaux-arts facade since it was completed more than 100 years ago. Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan-born and Brooklyn-based artist, designed the figures—The Seated I, II, III and IV—after caryatids, female carvings that usually provide weight-bearing support, though here they are freestanding. Regal and assured, Mutu’s creations are covered with bronze coils and embellished mirrored discs, drawing on traditions of African adornment. Each is different, though pairs (I & III, II & IV) are mirror images of each other.

This exhibit continues the museum's tradition of collecting New York City's stories. New York Responds highlights the experiences of New Yorkers during the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed George Floyd's death. Among the items on view are selections from the museum’s open call for content.

Experience the tragedy and resilience of New York City under the Covid-19 lockdown in New-York Historical Society’s outdoor photography exhibition. Journalist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman spent two days in April traversing the five boroughs, taking pictures and interviewing a diverse array of New Yorkers. The result is a snapshot of how locals were managing and reacting to these extraordinary times.

This mural depicting waves, mountains and stars is a companion piece to the fence installation above it. Adorning a playground fence adjacent to Staten Island's PS 39, they serve as a tribute to immigrant communities and New York Harbor. The fence installation is inspired by the Staten Island Ferry and the boats that brought people to Ellis Island.

The ninth annual Photoville Festival features outdoor photo exhibitions in public spaces across the five boroughs. Besides its usual home of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the event takes advantage of spots in the Lower East Side, Chelsea, Harlem, Queens, the Bronx and elsewhere. The photo displays are on show for most of the fall. Photoville’s usual array of talks, workshops and community events will all take place online.

Public Art Fund

This summer, Public Art Fund debuts Art on the Grid, 50 artistic reflections on the current moment displayed at hundreds of locations citywide. Presented in partnership with JCDecaux and appearing on bus shelters and LinkNYC screens across the five boroughs, this curated open-air exhibition was conceived in spring 2020 in response to the converging crises of the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism in our country.

NYC-based artist Sam Moyer constructs archways using stone indigenous to the New York area and locally sourced marble remnants that originate from around the world. Adorned with rich mosaic patterns, these portals allow the public to weave through and around the sculptures. Standing as a gateway between Midtown and Central Park, Moyer’s commission emphasizes the diverse makeup of the City's character.

The recently transformed LaGuardia Airport Terminal B features four permanent sitespecific art installations by Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens and Sarah Sze. Working at an unprecedented scale and drawing on personal experiences, the artists captured the City’s creative energy, openness, diversity, democratic spirit and position as a beacon for arts and culture. Commissioned by LaGuardia Gateway Partners in partnership with Public Art Fund, the artworks transform the airport into a powerful new civic landmark.

This new exhibition by San Francisco–based sculptor Davina Semo consists of five orange-pink, four-foot-tall bronze bells. Housed in structures towering over 14 feet in height, Reverberation enlivens the Brooklyn waterfront. Each bell features a unique configuration of holes drilled through its surface, creating individualized pitches. Semo’s five works aim to unify communities through their hopeful ring and encourage audiences to reconsider how we communicate and engage with one another.  

  • Reinstated by the Dia Arts Foundation with support from the Times Square Alliance and MTA Arts & Design
  • Times Square by Max Neuhaus (Ongoing)

Artist Max Neuhaus’ sound installation Times Square is a permanent contributor to the neighborhood’s cacophony. Emitting from beneath a subway grate at the northern end of the pedestrian island on Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets, the piece is a soothing sound loop, often described as a hum, that the artist first installed in 1977. The work, which remains unmarked, is one of the area’s hidden gems. As Neuhaus told The New York Times, “The whole idea is that people discover it for themselves.” 

The Flag Project is a public art installation and community engagement program for which New York artists were invited to design flags showcasing their love for New York City. Featuring works from Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic, Christian Siriano, Sarah Sze, Steve Powers, KAWS, Laurie Anderson, Hank Willis Thomas, Carmen Herrera, Jenny Holzer, Shantell Martin, Sanford Biggers and Faith Ringgold, the exhibition includes 192 flags flown together around the Rink at Rockefeller Center. 

Monuments Now presents monuments highlighting underrepresented histories and marginalized peoples. Part I features commissions by Jeffrey Gibson, Paul Ramírez Jonas and Xaviera Simmons. Part II, “Call and Response,” displays monuments by 2020 Artist Fellows Daniel Bejar, Fontaine Capel, Patrick Costello, Dionisio Cortes Ortega, Bel Falleiros, Jenny Polak, Aya Rodriguez-Izumi, Andrea Solstad, Kiyan Williams and Sandy Williams IV. Part III, “The Next Generation,” adds a project by students participating in the Socrateens program. 

This exhibit explores Staten Island's role in the suffrage movement and showcases the role of local suffragists including Rosalie Gardiner Jones, Drusilla Poole and Reverend Florence Spearing Randolph, of Rossville AME Zion Church. An abridged outdoor version is on display outside the museum for the time being. 

Wayfinding, the conceptual artist’s first institutional solo exhibition, features twenty-four site-specific sculptures that gesture toward the structural and visual vernacular of public wayfinding signage. The exhibition revolves around three central questions: How much of care is patience? How much of life is coping? How much of love is attention? Through text and archival images, Bass activates an eloquent exploration of language, both visual and written, encouraging moments of private reflection in public space.  

Launched as an artist-driven campaign to deliver messages of love, gratitude and solidarity with NYC residents, this ongoing exhibit, running at the top of every hour, appears on screens throughout Times Square as well as those above the Lincoln Tunnel and on LinkNYC kiosks across the City. The works currently featured have been curated by For Freedoms, an artist collective dedicated to creative civic engagement, discourse and direct action. Artists on the roster include Carrie Mae Weems, Jenny Holzer and Pedro Reyes.

Every night from 11:57pm to 12am, billboards throughout Times Square take a break from their regularly scheduled programming to display digital artworks. The program, ongoing since 2012, transforms the City’s famed intersection into a massive outdoor gallery space. Previous artists have included notables like Nick Cave, Tracy Emin, JR, Laurie Anderson and Andy Warhol. Up now through July 31 is She Never Dances Alone by Jeffrey Gibson, an artist of Choctaw and Cherokee descent, whose video project celebrates the power of Indigenous women by transforming the performance of a single jingle dress dancer into a kaleidoscopic ancestral call for strength and healing.  

  • Trust for Governors Island
  • Cabin by Rachel Whiteread (Ongoing)

Located atop Discovery Hill on Governors Island, Rachel Whiteread’s striking installation is a concrete cast of a rural shed, a sculpture that suggests moments of introspection and contemplation—think Thoreau—even as it overlooks bustling Lower Manhattan. Strewn about the grounds near the artwork are bronze casts of bottles, cans and other items, some of which came from Governors Island.

Shantell Martin’s free-flowing, black-and-white line drawings adorn Our Lady Star of the Sea, a Catholic chapel built on Governors Island during World War II. The artwork covers the exterior and interior of the structure, including the steeple, walls and floor. The May Room, which is not currently open for indoor viewing, offers seating for visitors in the shape of letters, which can be rearranged to form words, as well as a wall painted with a cascading series of phrases that all begin with the word “may,” such as “may your light shine.”

This whimsical overhead architectural installation graces Governors Island’s Liggett Hall Archway. Constructed of wooden cubes and massive steel funnels, the dynamic sculpture plays with the architecture of the passageway, creating a tunnel-like vortex between the island’s Historic District and newly designed park. Never Comes Tomorrow merges Jacob Hashimoto's interests in systems, history and cosmology and marked the artist's first major public art exhibition in New York City.  

While the mural on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower may have garnered the most attention, the City is co-naming and painting streets throughout the five boroughs in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. The first of these massive public works was painted in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood; among the notables who assisted were State Attorney General Letitia James, filmmaker Spike Lee and artists Dawud West, Cey Adams and Hollis King. For the one in Harlem, a group of local artists, led by curator LeRone Wilson, along with representatives from nearly two dozen community groups gathered to paint Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard. Other murals can be found or are on the way in Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn, Staten Island’s Richmond Terrace and the Bronx's Morris Avenue.  

Take a seat in one of the pair of bronze chairs positioned amid the dawn redwood and bald cypresses in front of Wave Hill’s Glyndor Gallery. Ana Flores, their sculptor, focuses on cultural and ecological narratives in her work; the sheltering seats serve as a reminder of alignment with the natural world.  

  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Day’s End by David Hammons (Fall 2020)

This installation by influential NYC-based artist David Hammons will be a vast open structure that follows the outline, dimensions and location of the original Pier 52 shed on the Hudson River. The work takes its inspiration and name from Gordon Matta-Clark’s 1975 artwork, in which Matta-Clark cut five openings into the original shed. The piece, developed by the Whitney in collaboration with the Hudson River Park Trust, also nods to the to the history of New York’s waterfront and promises to be especially lovely at sunset.

Jill Mulleady fashions a surreal landscape populated by multiple figures in a scene she has described as a sort of “dance.” Though the figures are clustered close to one another by the riverbank, they appear disconnected—even self-absorbed. The sense of modern-day life being both hyperconnected and isolating is set in greater relief by the lush natural surroundings in the scene. This site-specific work is part of a series of rotating public art installations on the facade of 95 Horatio Street, across the street from the Whitney Museum of American Art.  

For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit nycgo.com.


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