9 May 2012

Public Art in NYC

From site-specific installations right through to audio, film and performance pieces, Public Art is something that infiltrates our everyday lives; whether we actively search for it, or not. Fused into the urban landscape of New York, the works we encounter whilst walking though the city streets are often every bit as influential as those you might find in the Met or the MoMA. Whether wandering amidst the graffiti covered walls of dilapidated warehouses, or ambling through perfectly preened parks sprinkled liberally with sculptural artworks, the pieces we encounter force us view our environment from a new perspective…and, best of all, they’re accessible to everyone.

The High Line

Now one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, The High Line is a public park built on a disused railway line than runs above the streets of Manhattan, from the Meatpacking District right though to 10th and 11th Avenues. Opened in 2009, The High Line displays an incredibly broad range of pieces from big name artists, as well as emerging talent. In 2012 alone visitors to the park can expect to find a giant billboard featuring a commissioned piece by David Shrigley, a series of storage containers transformed into a dramatic installation by Charles Mary Kubricht and a moving sound installation called “Digital Empathy” by Julianne Swartz where messages of concern, support, love, and the odd snippet of poetry, will be transmitted through a number of bathrooms, sinks and water features across the park. In addition, there will also be curated film screenings projected onto the wall of a nearby building every night of the week and a programme of performance pieces by a variety of different artists. A walk in the park has never had quite so much to offer.

5Pointz: The Institute of Higher Burnin’

Controversial though it may be, 5Pointz is a Mecca for graffiti artists all over the globe. Spread across the walls of a 200,000 square foot factory turned outdoor exhibition space in Queens, the artwork on display here is orchestrated, and of course, curated, by graffiti god Jonathan Cohen – otherwise known as “Meres One”. Pioneer of the aerosol art scene, Cohen aims eventually to turn 5Pointz into a graffiti art museum, complete with training school for aspiring artists. For the moment though, 5Pointz remains the much loved hub of well known artists, musicians, filmmakers and photographers…who can all be found hanging out amongst the colourful murals most days of the week. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this particular brand of public art is that it’s always evolving with each new artist that contributes to the canvas; meaning you’re sure to find something new on every visit. A word of warning though, there are rumours that 5Pointz could be pulled down at any point, so I’d plan your visit soon.

The Water Tank Project and the Delancey Underground

Looking to the future, New York has some pretty exciting public art projects on the horizon. From high up in the city skyline, to deep underneath the streets, get set to experience an exciting array of public pieces. Scheduled for 12 weeks during the spring/summer of 2013, The Water Tank Project will see approximately 300 of New York’s water tanks transformed into eye-catching artworks set into the cityscape. Masterminded by the nonprofit organisation “Word Above the Street”, this city-wide exhibition will feature a variety of prominent artists and is designed to raise awareness about the global water supply, as well as encourage New Yorkers to embrace a more sustainable way of life.

Still in the planning stages, The Delancey Underground is the brainchild of ex-NASA architect James Ramsey and technology wiz/Google graduate Dan Barasch. Nicknamed “the Low Line”, this project aims to convert the former Williamsburg Trolley Terminal into an underground park and public art space powered by solar technology and fibre optics. Dating back to 1903, this vast underground area stretches from Brooklyn to Manhattan and has lain dormant since 1948. One of the most ambitious projects New York has seen in a while, if The Delancey Underground were to go ahead, this decaying space would be given a whole new lease of life through as series of live performances, art exhibitions and even famers’ markets – fingers crossed then.

Words by Katie Manning

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