March 21, 2014

For the last few days, the public artist Stephen Powers has been leaving his mark on New York’s Strand bookstore—as he says, “sneaking around the aisles and painting little love letters to reading and writing.” It’s all to celebrate the launch of his book, A Love Letter to the City (Princeton Architectural Press; $24.95), a collection of essays, sketches, and vibrant photos of his works from Coney Island and his hometown of Philadelphia to Dublin, São Paolo, and Johannesburg.

What sets your work apart from other public art?
A lot of art is created unceremoniously in a public place without input from the community. What’s different is that we’re attempting to have a dialogue before we create the work—the work actually becomes the dialogue. Rather than just creating a sculpture in a studio and dropping it off, it’s a matter of conversation and collaboration.

So many of your quotes have a sense of romance to them: “I paid the light bill just to see your face” and “Nothing to do is everything with you.” Do you have a favorite?
My favorite one is in Philadelphia: “Forever begins when you say yes.” I’ve seen people reduced to tears looking at it.

What museums top your list?
I was just at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, which I think it’s overlooked. And in New York, I really love the Frick. It’s having a moment thanks to the novel The Goldfinch, but it’s usually more under the radar. And north of Copenhagen, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art might be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Where are you going next?
Right now, my plan is to go to Tokyo and paint some walls. We have the locations—we’re trying to figure out what goes on the walls. There’s a really great love affair between New York and Tokyo, so I feel like if I bring enough of New York to the table, it’ll be well received. And I would love to go to Egypt, Greece, Russia—it’s just a matter of time.

The book launch party takes place at 7pm on March 25 at the Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway, New York). Stephen Powers will be signing copies in the Rare Book Room.

Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.


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