Great Places to See Public Art in New York City
Sure, New York City has world-class art museums, gorgeous architecture, and incredible cultural institutions, but the streets themselves (and trains below) are also jam-packed with art. These are some of the best.
It’s busy, it’s hot, and it’s often less than reliable, but even New Yorkers smile at unexpected art underground. There’s Samm Kunce’s eerily beautiful stone, glass, and marble mosaic in the long corridor connecting the Bryant Park/ 42nd Street subways. There’s the wacky class-photo-backdrop-in-the-80s neon beehive connecting the F train to the 6 at Bleecker/ Broadway-Lafayette. Roy Lichtenstein can be spied at the madcap Times Square station. And kids flip for Bill Brand’s MassTransiscope, a zoetrope-like apparition that appears out the window of Manhattan-bound B and Q trains from DeKalb.
Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland
Speaking of kids, there are tons of sculptures all around Central Park—not to mention the zoo!—but we’re partial to a classic: Jose de Creeft’s bronze sculpture of Alice and pals just north of East 74th Street.
Bushwick Street Art
Rent a bike or grab your CitiBike; there’s plenty of knockout street art all over Bushwick and Williamsburg, and with wheels, you can see a ton of it. Walking works, too: We like starting at the Jefferson stop on the L, where there are abundant cafes, bar, and taquerias, and exploring. (Pro tip: While planning your route, check out the #nycstreetart, #streetartnyc, #nycgraffiti and #muralart tags on Instagram.)
City Hall Park
En route to get hitched at City Hall? Great! Stop and see some art in City Hall Park on the way. The Public Art Fund almost always has something in those gardens, typically weather-worthy sculptures, and Claudia Comte’s “Italian Bunnies” (through September) should entice little ones.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Another Public Art Fund contribution to the city, Martin Creed’s “Understanding” is one of several works dotting the gorgeous Brooklyn Bridge Park—incidentally, an excellent place to snag views of the Manhattan skyline. Brooklyn artist Tom Fruin’s work “Watertower 3: R.V. Ingersoll” can be spotted near pier 5, and Deborah Kass’ “OY/YO” will be on display until late September, 2016.
The Rockaways have turned downright sceney lately. Nowadays there’s great food to be had, beachy DJs, bars, and dance parties. Add art to that list: MOMA PS1 has curated several exhibits by artists such as Patti Smith and Janet Cardiff as part of a series called “Rockaway!” The current exhibit by Berlin artist Katharina Grosse reinvigorates a former military building with swirls of red and white spray paint. It’s still full of piles of sand, making it a smart break from the sun on a Fort Tilden day trip.
The High Line
Every walk down The High Line, the public park and garden on a raised onetime subway track, is slightly different from the one before. Maybe it’s that you see a new pop-up food vendor, or a different stripe of sunset, but you also might glimpse a new sculpture—or a performance artist, such as a bald man wearing only his underwear, in the midst of fully-clothed foot traffic. As is true of New York itself, The High Line keeps it real.
Socrates Sculpture Park
The Queens institution—an outdoor sculpture park with a knockout view of Manhattan, a popular summer film series, and engrossing exhibits—celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Best of all, in the summertime it’s accessible via a cool “art bus” that will take you from the nearby Noguchi Museum to Socrates to the SculptureCenter to PS1—all for free. (You can’t say that about much in NYC!)