28 August 2018

Off on holidays! In New York, you can stroll from one public art event to the other, taste the different cuisines from all over the world and attend free concerts.

By Natalie Wichmann
1. Chuck Close at the subway station

After 40 years, the MTA finally opened the first three stations (96th, 86th, and 72nd Street) on the new Second Avenue Subway line in 2017. Each station features works by a contemporary artist. My personal favorites are the large-scale portraits by Chuck Close at the 86th stop. The American artist came to fame with his massive, hyper-realistic portraits of artists, musicians, and himself, which he produces using a wide range of different materials despite suffering from prosopagnosia (face blindness). In the subway station, the 12 portraits pop out against the mainly white background. After exiting the station you could walk up 86th Street to Central Park or head down to Carl Schurz Park. Either way, make sure to get yourself a cupcake or two from Two Little Red Hens right on Second Avenue and 86th Street, hands down the best in town (move over, Magnolia Bakery!).

Chuck Close, Subway Portraits, 2017, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
Chuck Close, Subway Portraits, 2017, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
2. Art projects on the High Line

The High Line is best visited during the early morning hours on a weekday when locals and tourists are still fast asleep. One of the most beloved parks of the city, the High Line occupies an old train track, hovering one story above street level and running from W 34th to Gansevoort Streets parallel to the Hudson River. Next to thousands of plants, the green space hosts a new public art project every year. This year’s group exhibition AGORA deals with the role of art in defining, creating, and using public space. One of the nine artists addressing questions like how art influences society, or whether public art has to be political, is Andrea Bowers – last seen at “Power to the People” at the SCHIRN. Bowers’ neon sign reading “Somos 11 Millones / We are 11 million” (the current number of undocumented immigrants in the US) provides a powerful comment on today’s immigration policies.

Through March 2019

Andrea Bowers, Somos 11 Millones / We Are 11 Million, 2018, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
3. Jacob Hashimoto on Governors Island

If I ever need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, I’ll go to Governors Island. Though the car-free island is only a short five-minute ferry ride away from Manhattan, it may as well be in another country and another time. The mix of historic architecture and a modern landscaped park, including lots of hammocks scattered all over the south part of the island, feeds the mind and body alike. This summer, there is another reason to make the short trip: Jacob Hashimoto’s “The Eclipse” situated in the St. Cornelius Chapel, open to the public for the first time since 2013. Inside the chapel, 15,000 black-and-white Japanese paper kites are hung from the ceiling, floating like clouds. Visitors can walk around through the immersive installation, getting different perspectives from various angles. An ideal place to sit down and contemplate for a while.

Through October 31

Jacob Hashimoto, The Eclipse, 2018, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
4. Chiaozza Zen Garden at Industry City

Chiaozza, the artist duo comprising Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza, is still flying under the radar in the art scene, although they have been working with some well-known brands such as Coachella, Nike, and most recently Ikea. If you want to see some of their whimsical sculptures go visit Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Their Chiaozza Zen Garden, a three-sculpture installation in the gravel courtyard between the huge warehouse buildings that house Industry City, lets you rake patterns around the sculptures like a life-size version of the tiny Zen gardens that filled offices in the early 90s.

And if you’re around, check out all those hip cafés, ice cream parlors, foodie stations, and galleries. Oh and there are free concerts in between buildings all summer long!

Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao, Chiaozza Zen Garden, 2017, Photo: Kendall Tichner (detail)
5. Madison Square Park

One of the best places to go for public art in NYC is Madison Square Park (nope, not the place where they host the New York Knicks). It’s smack in the middle between the architecturally impressive Flatiron Building  and Eataly, an Italian specialty store with one of the best ice cream parlors of the city, which is definitely worth a detour. This summer the park commissioned Syrian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Diana Al-Hadid to produce a series of sculptures: “Delirious Matter”. Al-Hadid’s white plaster sculptures seem to float around invisible organic as well as architectural objects: three headless female bodies lying on plinths are almost hidden behind the luscious vegetation and two large, lacy walls on the oval lawn give visitors the feeling of being inside in the outdoors.

Through September 3

Diana Al-Hadid, Delirious Matter, 2018, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
6. Skyline view from Domino Park in Brooklyn

For the best view in the city you have to go to Brooklyn. The newly opened Domino Park sits on the South Williamsburg waterfront with the former Domino Sugar Refinery, its main brick building and distinctive smoke stack still standing, providing an industrial background. The public park spans over six acres and offers lots of fun activities in the summer, including beach volleyball, bocce, playgrounds for kids as well as fountains to cool off in. The best view – from Williamsburg Bridge past the One World Trade Center all the way up to the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings – is from the catwalk, a recycled mini high line at the north end of the park. And if you, like me, need a break from all that sun, head up Grand Street and check out Devoción. Opt for a freshly brewed Colombian coffee (they harvest and roast their own beans), lean back in one of those soft leather couches under the skylight roof and just relax.

Domino Park, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
7. Bowery Mural in Manhattan

The Bowery Mural Wall at the corner of Houston and Bowery is one of those rare places where you can enjoy some street art on Manhattan. It has been a street art location ever since Keith Haring painted his iconic “Crack is Wack” mural in 1982 to support the community. The neighborhood around Bowery has been a home for (street) artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat (last on view at the SCHIRN in ”Basquiat. Boom for Real”) since the late 70s and early 80s. In 2008 Tony Goldman, Goldman Properties has owned the Bowery Mural Wall since 1984, initiated a project together with art dealer Jeffrey Deitch to curate the wall and invite street artists from all over the world. One of the artists who contributed was Banksy. The still unidentified street art legend from Great Britain used the wall to comment on the imprisonment of Turkish artist Zehra Doğan for painting a war-torn Turkey and posting her picture on social media. Right now, there is a new mural taking shape, so make sure to check it out when you’re in town over the summer.

Banksy, Free Zehra Doğan, 2018, Bowery Mural Wall, Photo: Katherine Lorimer (detail)
8. An Eldorado for Street Art in Brooklyn

If you’re into street art you have to take the L train to Bushwick, Brooklyn. From Jefferson to Troutman to Starr Streets, between Cypress and Knickerbocker Avenues, a colorful wonderland of murals has been taking shape since 2013. This so-called “public gallery” is designed to improve the neighborhood, a dangerous place to live in the 80s and 90s: Artists donate materials and skills, locals provide their house walls. I love just wandering around, getting lost in this new mecca of NYC street art. And when I’m craving a coffee around here I’ll go to Kávé Espresso Bar, hidden behind a bright-green door on Knickerbocker Avenue. And if I’m hungry, well, there is no better place to grab a quick bite in Bushwick than Arepera Guacuco. The Venezuelan restaurant is known for its delicious arepas and empanadas.

Street Art in Brooklyn, 2018, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
9. A symbol for cultural exchange

Yinka Shonibare’s “Wind sculpture (SG) I” seems to flap like a giant flag in a gust of wind. The monumental sculpture is painted in bright orange, turquoise, and an earthy brown to mimic the colors of West African fabrics. Shonibare was born in London, but moved to Lagos. He spent his whole life going back and forth between England and Nigeria. He sees himself as a cultural hybrid, “a product of complex and layered relationships forged by centuries of global trade, migration, politics, and cultural exchange.” “Wind sculpture (SG) I” stands right at the entrance to Central Park; from here you can either turn into the park and enjoy a walk along The Mall to Bethesda Terrace or, if the mood strikes you for some awesome architecture and one of the best cakes in town, cross Grand Army Plaza and step into the famous Plaza Hotel (take the front entrance on weekdays and have a look at the gorgeous Palm Court). Inside, head for the shops in the basement and try Lady M’s signature Mille Crepes Cake.

Through October 14

Yinka Shonibare MBE: Wind Sculpture (SG) I, 2018, Photo: Natalie Wichmann
10. Nightly screenings on Times Square

If I’m in the mood for an NYC classic I head for Times Square. Ideally, arrive around 10.30pm for a slice of pizza and head over to Dave & Busters to join in some old-school family fun of arcade games. Make sure you get out around 11.45pm to not miss the most important thing: the Midnight Moment. Every night at exactly 11.57pm a huge part of those bright billboards is replaced by a monthly changing art installation for three glorious minutes. And now take it all in: the lights, the bustle, the hectic, the tourists. And when you, drunken from all that light, stumble across a deep drumming sound coming from a grate covering the pedestrian island on Broadway between 45th & 46th Streets, fear not! You just discovered Max Neuhaus’ “Times square” sound installation. A perfect end to a perfect NYC night.

Times Square Arts, 2018, Photo: Ka-Man Tse (detail)