It’s hard to think of New York City and not think of the arts – which encompasses architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, poetry, music, performing and film. It’s also hard to argue the fact that some of the most impressive, influential, significant and – well – mind-blowing art that the world has ever seen originated here. And now, the summer of 2021 is spotlighting even more of its fabulous art scene thanks to a crop of new art installations popping up throughout the city.
Whether you have loved art your entire life, just recently developed a passion for it or perhaps are simply looking to get more exposure to this medium in all its forms – check out our list of the seven must-see new NYC public art installations below – all coming to the Big Apple this month!
The Green At Lincoln Center
This inviting space is part of the Restart Stages project that opened last month on the grounds of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The Green is the brainchild of set designer Mimi Lien who had a vision to transform some 20,000 square feet of concrete that is the Josie Robertson Plaza into a more comfy, lush carpet of grass. (And not just any grass – recyclable, biobased material sourced from US farmers.) What was once an area that many strolled through – but didn’t stop to linger as there was no seating – is now a place that beckons visitors to take a seat anywhere. Whether that be to take in one of the many live performances that are planned for this open-air space, grab something to read from the New York Public Library pop-up, grab a bite to eat from nearby food trucks – all minority and women-owned! – or simply to relax and do nothing – you can bet your – um – grass – that it will become one of your favorite places to hang out this summer!
Silent Spikes At Times Square
If you’ve ever been in Times Square just at a few minutes to midnight (no this isn’t about New Year’s Eve – that’s for another blog) you may have looked up at those monstrous electronic billboards and watched in delight as a digital art exhibit flashed across them in synchronicity – and then perhaps wondered what that was all about. “That” is Midnight Moment – the world’s largest, longest-running digital art exhibition that you can catch nightly for just three minutes – starting at 11:57 pm and running until midnight – hence the name. This June Kenneth Tam’s Silent Spikes will be featured each night. Presented in partnership with the Queens Museum where Tam’s Silent Spikes is currently on view, Silent Spikes shows a series of different Asian American men dressed as iconic American cowboys – a space from which they’ve always been excluded – and seeks to explore the effects of these traditional concepts that are shaping the perception of race and gender in the present day. Conversation starting, thought-provoking, eye-opening – be sure to make your way to Times Square some night in June – if for no other reason than to catch Silent Spikes three-minute run.
The Oracle At Rockefeller Center
You know Rockefeller Center as home to that massive tree, a place to glide across the ice and an extremely popular morning television show – but did you also know that more recently it has become home to pop-up art installations? That’s right. Back a few years ago the complex – in partnership with the non-profit Art Production Fund – started hosting art exhibits that take place in varying and often unique locations around the campus. This month you can catch artist Sanford Biggers’s work – which includes a towering bronze Oracle statue as its cornerstone. This 25-foot masterpiece can be found sitting on a throne at the start of the iconic Channel Gardens – which is the complex’s Fifth Avenue entrance – and adds an air of mystery to this installation. Mystery – by the way – is what this particular work by Biggers is based on – as well as an exploration of mythology – more specifically the mythologies of African and European cultures. In addition to the Oracle, you’ll also spot flags, photos, music, and more scattered throughout the grounds. The installation runs through June 29th so be sure and stop by and say hi to NYC’s 15,280-pound visitor before he goes out on tour.
Ghost Forest At Madison Square Park
Deep in the heart of the Flatiron and NoMad districts of Manhattan don’t be surprised if you encounter a ghost or two – or 49 – this summer. Ghost Trees that is. This “haunting” exhibit is courtesy of artist Maya Lin and speaks brilliantly to her stance as an environmental activist, as it is representative of the threat to our environment due to climate change, extreme weather events and – in the case of the Atlantic white cedar trees showcased here – a change in sea level. The trees – each standing around 40 feet high – were brought in from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where they were already “barely holding on to life” per Lin – and as part of a regeneration effort – were scheduled to be cleared anyway. Standing outside the barren trunks – or in the midst of them – it’s hard not to feel what she was trying to convey in her installation. Featured through mid-November – don’t be afraid of these ghosts – but do be concerned about more Ghost Forests – described by Wikipedia as “…areas of dead trees in former forests, typically in coastal regions where rising sea levels or tectonic shifts have altered the height of a landmass” – popping up around the globe.
The Arts Center At Governors Island – Reopening Exhibitions
Governors Island isn’t just for picnics, glamping and fabulous views of Manhattan – although all three of those things are pretty cool and great reasons to hop on a ferry and make the short trip over to visit. It’s also the site of some fantastic NYC Public Art Installations – thanks to the Arts Center at Governors Island. The Arts Center at Governors Island – which opened in 2019 and has the distinction of being the first year-round tenant dedicated to arts and culture on the island – is curated and presented by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Its 2021 season, which re-opens June 12th and runs through the end of October, will consist of two solo exhibitions including Wave by artist Meg Webster and The Forever Museum Archive by artist Onyedika Chuke. In addition, there will be a participatory installation by Muna Malik – Blessing of the Boats – which is an interactive sculpture. If you haven’t made it to Governors Island yet be sure to put it on your list of things to do this summer – and while you’re there, check out these fabulous art displays in the center – whose focus, by the way, is on sustainability and equity. You won’t be disappointed – I promise.
Red Stage At Astor Place
Head down to where East Village meets West Village this June and you just may find yourself being watching a show of some sort – as the word has been put out – Rashid Johnson’s Red Stage is coming to the plaza and all artists are invited to – well, take the stage! So, what exactly is the Red Stage? It’s a platform – a 30-foot-wide platform – with a 13-foot high red metallic stage frame attached that will make its home at Astor Place starting June 5th and stay up until July 4th. Why red? Johnson uses the color as a reflection of his ongoing battle with acute anxiety – which after the year we’ve had – I am sure we can all relate. While some programming has been announced and will include pretty much every form of the arts you can think of – a portion of it will consist of surprise performances, with the remainder of time intended as an opportunity for anyone who so chooses to occupy the stage to create away. Described as a “Drawing on histories of conceptual art and speaker’s corners” on Astor Place’s website – I for one cannot wait to ease some of my post-pandemic anxiety with a visit to see what’s happening on the Red Stage!
Untitled (Drone) At The Highline Plinth
There’s no denying that the Highline is one clever use of a space that was destined to be torn down. There’s also no denying that the continued upkeep, additions and innovations to it make it a spot you want to re-visit each time you find yourself in the city. The Highline Plinth is a great example of just that. Opened the summer pre-pandemic – chances are if you don’t live in the city, you haven’t seen it yet – so here is your official heads up. You’re welcome. The Plinth is an area – located on what is called the Spur (an awesome space with great city views at 30th Street and Tenth Avenue) – that has been dedicated to featuring a rotating series of monumental and contemporary art commissions. Each piece that is chosen to be featured will be displayed for 18 months – during which it will actually become a part of those city views. And – as you may have already guessed – starting in June and for the next year and a half said artwork is a large fiberglass sculpture atop a 25-foot pole named Untitled (Drone). Created by Sam Durant, Untitled (Drone) is meant as a reminder of not only drone warfare but of the surveillance – both visible and invisible – that has become the norm thanks to things like drones and smartphones. Do yourself a favor and check it out – and while you’re there Durant is hoping you’ll ponder just where this technology is headed – for better or for worse.
So – want to know the best part about all of these NYC public art installations? They are all free and open to the public. Just doesn’t get any better than that now does it? Or does it? If you contact those fabulous NYC experts at Beyond Times Square they can help get you set up with transportation, accommodations and even a private tour guide if you would like some assistance getting around to each exhibit. Give them a call – they are more than happy to help you curate the perfect trip to the Big Apple and to be there for you from start to finish!