A Comprehensive Guide to New York's Spring Onslaught of Public Art

A rendering of Toshihiro Oki's "tree" wood, opening May 12 at the Socrates Sculpture Park
(Courtesy Toshihiro Oki architect p.c.)

It’s been a long winter of shuttling between galleries and museums, but now that spring seems to have finally arrived in New York City — don’t jinx it! — and summer just around the corner, it’s time for art’s seasonal migration back out into the streets, parks, and public spaces. To help you navigate the best outdoor art offerings in New York City over the next several months, ARTINFO has assembled this comprehensive (hopefully) borough-by-borough guide. From Ugo Rondinone’s megaliths at the foot of 30 Rock, to an ephemeral sculpture park at a meat distribution plant in Bushwick, these are 2013’s must-see public art installations.



After Hours 2: Murals on the Bowery” on Bowery between Houston and Grand Street, through September 29

For its second iteration, once again timed to coincide with the New Museum’s Ideas City festival, the Art Production Fund (with an assist from Sotheby’s) has signed up a star-filled roster of artists to create murals on the roll-down metal shutters of businesses along the Bowery, resulting in a stellar nocturnal art show featuring contributions from Dana Schutz, Mel Bochner, Wendy White, Daniel Buren, Alex Israel, and more.

El Anatsui, Broken Bridge II on the High Line between West 21st and 22nd Streets, through summer 2013

The Ghana-born, Nigeria-based master tinkerer of tin quilting has switched materials slightly, deploying pressed tin and mirrors in this façade-wrapping installation that, between the trees growing below it and the sky reflected in it, seems unexpectedly and delightfully ethereal given its enormous scale.

Uri Aran, Untitled (Good & Bad) on the High Line between West 25th and West 26th Streets, through August

Another easily-missed High Line piece, Aran’s sound installation consists of the recitation of a list of names of animals, ranging from the common to the exotic. The recording — emitted from the garden beds on 25th Street — is conceptually interesting, but would be better suited to an enclosed environment.

Alexandre Arrechea on the Park Avenue Median between 53rd and 67th Streets, through June 9

Cuban artist and former member of Los Carpinteros Alexandre Arrechea has re-formed ten of New York’s most famous skyscrapers into fantastical miniatures with altered lines, shapes, and colors. Buildings curve impossibly and wind in upon themselves in a whimsical statement on the shifting needs of urban architecture. Watch ARTINFO video.

Art Students League, 2nd Annual Model to Monument (M2M) at Riverside Park, through May

Inspired by Riverside Park itself, the works exhibited here — created by seven students at the Art Students League — explore ideas of flux through large-scale, abstract sculptures that are just one part in a three-site installation reaching to Riverside Park South and Van Cortland Park.

Alan Binstock, “Wayfinder, Trance Ender, Third Portal” at Fort Tyron Park through September 13

Three works influenced by Florida-based sculptor Alan Binstock’s interest in deep space navigation and Eastern metaphysics are placed along the garden paths, playing with and reflecting foliage colors while subtly suggesting pathways for both internal and external discovery.

Carol Bove, “Caterpillar” on the High Line at the Rail Yards, May 2013 May 2014

The overgrown wilds of the High Line will be home to seven of Carol Bove’s large scale sculptural works for the next year. This off-the-beaten-path exhibition will require advance reservations.

Busted” on the High Line, through April 2014

This cleverly titled High Line Commission exhibition features works that break with the conventions of the traditional portrait bust and monumental statue. Most of the nine artists included do so playfully, as with Andra Ursuta’s marble nose in a wheelbarrow, “Nose Job,” and Sean Landers’s kilt-wearing statue of a satyr. Goshka Macuga’s bust of Colin Powell in the now-iconic pose he struck while showing “evidence” of Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, however, connotes a different kind of busted. (A tenth sculpture, its subject determined by a public vote, will join the exhibition in the fall.)

Orly Genger, “Red, Yellow and Blue” at Madison Square Park, May 2 — September 8

1.4 million feet of rope collected along the beaches of the East Coast and over 3,000 gallons of red, yellow, and blue paint come together in a massive, interactive work, winding its way through the park, re-defining boundaries, and inviting visitors to discover hidden spaces within the park.

Oscar Muñoz, Re/trato on the High Line Channel at 22nd Street, 8 p.m.  10 p.m. daily through May 31

In this short film projected nightly onto the park-adjacent wall at West 22nd Street, the Columbian artist uses a paintbrush and water to create a self-portrait on the sidewalk. As his image starts to evaporate he begins repainting it, making for an endless loop of inscription and erasure that becomes an eloquent rumination on identity and memory.

Virginia Overton, Untitled on the High Line at 20th Street, through summer

Sitting a few feet below the High Line within a commercial parking structure, Overton’s truck is easily missed, and just as easily misunderstood. As one visitor stated last week, “It just looks like a truck with a bunch of bricks in the back.”

Albert Paley, Paley on Park Avenue on Park Avenue between 52nd and 67th Streets, June 29 — November 8

With their massive limbs of looping, coiling, and glittering steel, Paley’s latest sculptures, conceived especially for the Park Avenue median, should prove to be fairly apt visualizations of Midtown traffic patterns. The huge works, each weighing between 2.5 and 7.5 tons and reaching heights of up to 21 feet, give gridlocked drivers plenty to gawk at during rush hour.

Andrew Rogers, “Individuals” at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza (near the UN), May 7 — September 13

Australian land artist Andrew Rogers brings a series of 15 conch-shaped bronze sculptures to the steps of the United Nations. With some “Individuals” standing up to 24 feet in height, the works are a large-scale statement on the relationship between individuals and the collective.

Ugo Rondinone, “Human Nature” in Rockefeller Plaza, through June 7

A site-specific installation, “Human Nature” highlights the contrast between the primal and the urban, with nine human-shaped figures composed of bluestone slabs towering up to 20 feet high in the middle of Rockefeller Plaza. Watch ARTINFO video.

Thomas Schütte, “United Enemies” in Central Park, through August 25

The German sculptor’s tripedal, larger-than-life cast-bronze figures of men with eerily vacant cartoon faces are bound in pairs beneath robes and rope. Conceived as a response to political corruption in Italy, they bring a surprisingly light touch to Central Park’s southeastern plaza.

Superflex, “Modern Times Forever on the High Line Channel 14 at 14th Street, daily beginning at 7 p.m., May 7 — June 19

Nightly screenings of a 10-hour film imagining and projecting what would happen to Helsinki’s Stora Enso building if it was left to the natural elements over thousands of years will take place in the 14th Street passageway.


do it (outside), curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist at Socrates Sculpture Park, May 12 — July 7

For the past 20 years, artists, performers, community groups, and the public have participated in the conceptual avant-garde work, “do it,” by following artist instructions to realize works. Over 60 pieces created in this secondary fashion and curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist will be exhibited out of doors for the first time in the history of the installation.

Chitra Ganesh, “Her Nuclear Waters” at Socrates Sculpture Park, May 12 — August 5

The latest artist to grace the park’s Broadway Billboard space, Brooklyn-born and -based artist Chitra Ganesh will create an 11-by-28 foot image in her trademark style combining Pop art, Japanese print, expressionist and sci-fi comic book imagery into fantastical narratives with a feminist bent.

MoMA PS1 VW Dome 2 at Rockaway Beach Boardwalk, through May

Klaus Biesenbach has brought his work to his vacation spot, where he and pal Patti Smith recently bought homes, helping the waterfront Rockaway community by providing a cultural center of sorts for a neighborhood that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Thus far the geodesic dome by the sea has hosted events like an impromptu performance by Smith, an urban beekeeping workshop, and art workshops presented by the Queens Museum.

Heather Rowe,  Beyond the Hedges (Slivered Gazebo)” at Socrates Sculpture Park, May 13  July 7

Rowe works at the intersection of sculpture and architecture and for this site-specific installation she has created a mirrored gazebo, with lattices and trellises designed to offer viewers a re-structured and heightened experience of the natural environment surrounding the structure.

Toshihiro Oki architect, tree wood” at Socrates Sculpture Park, May 12  August 5

For this year’s “Folly” commission — a joint project between Socrates Sculpture Park and the Architectural League of New York to commission a large-scale outdoor installation by an emerging architect — Toshihiro Oki architect will install the wooden frame small structure in the park’s densely wooded grove. In addition to the trees rising through its beams, the open-air structure will feature an ornate chandelier suspended at its center.

Welling Court Murals” at Welling Court, begins in June

Every summer more than 50 street artists from all over the world descend upon this far-off corner of Astoria to repaint a dozen or so blocks with enormous new murals. Now in its fourth year, the Welling Court Murals program is on track to continue expanding and bringing out international talent, particularly with the demolition of the borough’s other major street art venue, 5Pointz, facing the wrecking ball later this year.


Configurations” at MetroTech Center, through September 16

For its latest group show animating this sterile corporate plaza in downtown Brooklyn, the Public Art Fund has brought together works by four women artists — Valérie Bass, Katinka Bock, Esther Kläs, and Allyson Vieira — that change dramatically as viewers move around them. Foremost among them are Vieira’s three arches of steel and cinderblock, which reveal unexpected angular slices and views, and Kläs’s bright, pod-like aquaresin and concrete sculptures, which seem poised to spawn some chromatic monsters at a moment’s notice.

Akihiro Ito, Tomorrow” at Fort Greene Park, through August

Ever the optimist, Ito has created the stylized form of a giant baby out of some 600 pieces of laminated Douglas fir, emphasizing both the project’s environmentally sound materials and its forward-thinking subject matter, a monument of sorts to the generations of tomorrow.

Rock Street 2013” on Rock Street, June 1 — 2

Timed to coincide with Bushwick Open Studios, the Brooklyn neighborhood’s all-out art weekend, gallerists Deborah Brown and Lesley Heller are curating this 19-artist outdoor sculpture show that will take over Rock Street, a one-block-long road typically used exclusively by the enormous Boar’s Head meat distribution plant that straddles it. Local artists including Rico Gatson, Liz Atzberger, Ben Godward, Audra Wolowiec, Jack Henry, Kristof Wickman, and Ashley Zelinskie will present new works on the temporarily pedestrian block.

Oscar Tuazon, People” at Brooklyn Bridge Park, through October 13

The three hybrid sculptural installations that make up this exhibition, which fuse very obviously man-made elements like a fountain, concrete walls, and bunkers with tall, conspicuously leaf-less trees, seem perfectly at home in an under-construction park built atop a series of former industrial piers. That said, we’ve still never seen anyone shooting baskets on the sculpture festooned with a basketball hoop.


Bronx Calling: The Second AIM Biennial at Wave Hill, June 22 – September 8

Bringing together works by 24 emerging New York artists who have participated in the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace program over the past two years, the biennial is one of the few to take place in a setting as charming and peaceful as Wave Hill.

Drawn to Nature” at Wave Hill, through June 16

Works by seven contemporary artists who explore themes of nature — ranging from urban biodiversity to imagined landscapes and portraiture — through drawing and watercolor are exhibited in the Garden’s Glyndor Gallery.

Philip Haas, Four Seasons” at the New York Botanical Garden, May 18 — October 27

At once playfully stylized and thoroughly hyperrealist, Haas’s series of sculptures are precisely rendered three-dimensional versions of Arcimboldo’s iconic portraits, with enormous busts representing spring, summer, autumn, and winter made up of seasonal fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The monumental vegetal portraits should be perfectly at home in the Botanical Garden’s verdant surroundings.

Manolo Valdés, Monumental Sculpture” at the New York Botanical Garden, through May 26

The Spaniard’s series of seven large-scale sculptures draws its inspiration from the surrounding foliage, including a 17-foot-tall steel and bronze piece inspired by maple and oak trunks, and the 50-foot-wide aluminum construction “Butterflies.” Each billowing, tree-like construction sits atop a massive head, which gives these metal plants airs of ornate hats and headdresses.

To see highlights from this spring and summer's public art offerings in New York City, click the slideshow.