You don’t have to pay to go to a gallery or museum in New York City, as the city’s public spaces are full of works of art. Public sculptures, murals, and pictures adorn the city’s parks, walkways, and structures. You can see massive sculptures, eye-popping paintings, and graffiti in several NYC locations, including the High Line, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens. And the best part is that there is zero entry fee required! Here are the best outdoor exhibitions in New York this year.
Sculptor Davis McCarty’s “Pulse Portal,” originally displayed at Burning Man 2016 and currently at Brookfield Place’s Waterfront Plaza, is a fascinating and original work of art. The eye-catching, 20-foot-tall archway is constructed from NASA-created materials that change hue depending on the observer’s perspective.
The emphasis on color is not only superficial. McCarty claims that “the brilliant hues signify the diversity of humans and celebrate the distinctive spark residing inside each of us.” It’s a thrilling sculpture you will remember for a long time.
The latest piece of art on Governors Island is substantial in size and purpose. Charles Gaines’ “Moving Chains” is a 110-foot-tall kinetic sculpture with strong chains that revolve in the air above it. The monument “provides a crucial historical perspective on our tremendous political division today by addressing the reality of institutional racism in the United States of America via embodied and visual experience.”
It’s one of the top 5 exhibitions to see in NYC right now. And you have until June of 2023 to check out the latest project, the greatest public art commission ever on the island.
Art in focus
The Rockefeller Center public art initiative Art in Focus is now in its fifth year. It’s one of the most famous outdoor exhibitions in New York. It’s definitely one of the first places to see after moving to NYC to enjoy the city like a local. This year’s exhibition spreads the work of three modern painters over Rock Center. In this iteration, they prioritize abstraction, praising individuality in order to welcome surrealism and escapism in the midst of dreamscapes. In this upcoming season, there will be a lot of monotone and textured designs.
First up is a new work by Nicaraguan-American artist Joel Gaitan, on view at 10 Rockefeller Plaza, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, and on the street and concourse floors of 45 Rockefeller Plaza. Basil Kincaid, a fiber and collage artist, will present his installations next, followed by Brooklyn-based painter Dominique Fung.
Do you ever give thought to the folks who make NYC’s green areas so wonderful when you’re out enjoying them? Fanny Allié, the creator of a new sculpture display titled Shadows, hopes you do.
The ten multicolored sculptures at Bella Abzug Park were made by the mixed-media artist who was inspired by the park’s maintenance staff. Allié spent a great deal of time with each subject, asking them to strike poses that would best capture their individuality and use those as the basis for the sculptures. She photographed them in various stances, traced their silhouettes, and then fabricated metal replicas of the figures. Each worker chose the hue of their sculpture.
The exhibition encourages visitors to see the park in a new light: as a resource for thought-provoking, free artwork. Visitors may also scan a QR code to hear the subjects talk about their work, sing, whistle, hum, and chuckle as they reflect on the experience of co-creating the artwork.
The new public artwork created by Allié will be on display until September 2023.
If you missed a great exhibition recently, make sure you don’t miss out on this one! Until March 30th, visitors to midtown Manhattan may stroll along a rope tunnel painted in bright hues. This tunnel is meant to evoke the city’s skyscrapers. In the Financial District, you can see “Geo” in front of 140 Broadway and Liberty Street.
The design company Hou de Sousa’s 30-by-10-foot dome features a steel framework and more than five miles of fluorescent paracord. This creates a stunning show of lights and colors that stands out in stark contrast to its surrounding neighborhood.
The entrance to Bronx Park near Webster Avenue has received a temporary facelift by the colorful “Power Flowers” art piece. Amazing crocheted flowers adorn the area. These circular medallions each have their own unique pattern inspired by or based on a certain flower. The thickly crocheted medallions come in a rainbow of colors, creating a visual explosion you can see from a distance. So while we wait for the Bronx Museum of Arts renovation, this outdoor exhibition will be amazing to look at!
Mind Forged Manacles/Manacle Forged Minds
This installation was inspired by William Blake’s concept of “Mind Forg’d Manacles.” Those are barriers to personal and societal growth and freedom erected by fear, division, and perceptions of difference. The artwork deals with issues of security and gated communities, fear, the incarceration of black men, the detention of illegal immigrants, and policing.
The gates in this installation symbolize the physical and mental barriers that keep individuals apart. It doesn’t matter whether they’re meant to keep others out or to keep someone in. Although it isn’t a truly site-specific work, it does help start, continue, and amplify a dialogue regarding the sculpture and the nearby monuments and structures in Columbus Park. The piece and its setting invite the visitor to reflect on questions of justice, freedom, slavery, and mass imprisonment by encouraging them to be site conscious.
The former public artwork MERIDIAN was originally in Washington, DC. After spending almost a year and a half in the open, the modules moved to New York. Here, they underwent extensive repairs and were given a new, brightly colored appearance. They also got a new name – AZIMUTH. The Pike Street Mall now has a new community meeting space and one of the best outdoor exhibitions in New York, courtesy of AZIMUTH. This pavilion breathes life into a stale and underutilized public park middle, turning it into a fresh gathering spot for the community.
Some of the best outdoor exhibitions in New York can be found just wandering around the city. There are so many art installations around; we couldn’t even begin to list them all! Nevertheless, the best way to enjoy them is just to let yourself discover them at your own pace.