From the Statue of Liberty to the Washington Square Arch, public art is an inextricable part of the NYC landscape. Outside of these established landmarks, there’s never a shortage of intriguing and thought-provoking pieces popping up across the five boroughs. These are a few public artworks currently on display around the five boroughs that help keep New York a vibrant center of culture, showing you don’t always need to visit a museum to get in touch with the world of art.
The sometimes controversial Chinese dissident’s latest piece uses the entire city as its canvas. At sites across Manhattan and Brooklyn, Ai Weiwei’s Good Fences Makes Good Neighbors serves as compelling commentary on the borders and separations that define our lives. Consisting of steel fences and pictorial banners strategically placed across the city, this piece is just the latest example of global artists using the city’s streets to make a vital statement.
On the more lighthearted side, this bright yellow construction consists of just two letters that carry a multitude of meanings for countless people. The 8-foot tall aluminum piece, depending on where on the Williamsburg’s North Fifth Street Pier and Park you’re standing, reads “YO” as in “I” in Spanish, or the slang “hey” salutation familiar to just about all New Yorkers. From the other side, the two letters read “OY,” perhaps a nod to the city’s many Jewish residents. Either way you choose to look at it, this piece by Deborah Kass is worth experiencing in person.
A highlight of the City Parks Department’s Art in the Parks initiative, Flying High for Equality sits perched on the southern slope of Joyce Kilmer Park along East 161st Street in the Concourse Village neighborhood in the Bronx. A flock of multicolored sparrows representing the varied communities found in the city overlook the colorful neighborhood adjacent to Yankee Stadium.
Another piece sponsored by the Parks Department brings vivid color to the green parks of New York. Queens’ Rufus King Park in Jamaica already stands out thanks to a colonial manor central to the park, and Common Ground brings a more down-home feeling to the compact park space. Brightly colored benches featuring mosaic designs comprise this utilitarian piece of art, providing a place that encourages park visitors to come together and enjoy friendship and camaraderie any time of year.
The work of Polish-born artist Fitzhugh Karol, this highly interactive piece forms steel silhouettes into something new. Part public art, part playground, these works invite visitors to play and enjoy them while offering a highly unique aesthetic to Stapleton’s Tappen Park. Drawing inspiration from the freighters in nearby New York harbor, Eyes combines steel material with bright color.