New York City is an amazing place for art, artists and art lovers. Not just because of the amazing museums, but also because of the art that’s available every time someone walks out their front door.
So, where to find the best public art in New York City? The answer, everywhere! But, more specifically…
Start with the subway
From whimsical, curious political statues to tile mosaics that can be charming, informative (the actual name of the station!) or both, the subway is an underground gold mine of art.
Two of the best? First, get to the 14th St./Eighth Ave. station (the intersection of the A,C,E, and L lines) for Life Underground by artist Tom Otterness.
The permanent installation features a small bronze alligator eating a well-heeled, corrupt, politician. A woman reading a book sits on a similarly rich businessman.
The statuary is based, in part, on the work of 19th-century political cartoonist Thomas Nast. Otterness told the New York Daily News, in 2016, “I thought not that much has changed in 100 years.”
On the lighter side is the Subway Art Safari, a series of tile mosaics (along the N, Q and R train routes) depicting fun animal families.
Flocks of parrots fly over stairs at the Fifth Avenue and 59th Street stop. Penguins can be found by the exit stairs, also at 59th Street (Central Park South) and Fifth Avenue, as can a troop of monkeys. Not coincidentally, the Central Park Zoo is only a few blocks away from these entertaining images.
Above ground, there’s both a permanent and ever-changing landscape of art to explore.
Fearless Girl, by artist Kristen Visbal was unveiled in the Financial District in March, to both praise and skepticism. It put a distinct new spin on the art in that corner of New York (Broadway and Morris) because of the exact location—facing down the iconic Charging Bull statue. Fearless Girl is currently scheduled to stay in place only through 2018.
New Yorkers being who they are, someone recently put a Wonder Woman diadem on the statue, further reinforcing the strength of the piece.
Speaking of strength and iconic images, south of the Financial District at the tip of Manhattan is Battery Park. A trip there earns art lovers a view of perhaps the most iconic of all New York art, The Statue of Liberty.
Dedicated in 1886 and renovated in 2000, the statue is unique (to say the least) for both its meaning, and its colossal size.
Most recently, four Paparazzi Dogs have appeared in Greenwich Village. The work of Gillie and Marc, who are a husband and wife team, the demands-a-selfie art is on the traffic island at of Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Avenue, and Christopher Street.
There is no end date set for the display.
For further proof that New Yorkers love art, head to the upper west side to see an original Banksys, lovingly preserved by the Zabar family.
That’s right, the founders of the family-owned for three generations market, Zabar’s, preserved a Banksy by putting plexiglass over it several years ago.
The piece, a boy taking a carnival-style hammer to a fire standpipe, is at 79th and Broadway. Incidentally (or not) that’s also the location of the market, which means there’s great food and drink options available to refuel for more public art touring.
Finally, keep an eye out for random acts of art.
Being New York, in addition to temporary and permanent installations, there’s also straight-up street art.
The blog worleygig.com features all things New York, but has a “street-art” tag that highlights the near-graffiti, colorful, often political, art that pops up on walls, posts and construction sites around the city.
A recent post points out face relief sculptures by French street artist Gregos that adorn the facades of buildings and other random objects all along 14th Street.
Worley also keeps an eye on art that could easily fall prey to graffiti, refurbishment, or the elements. According to the blog, Nick Walker’s mural of his signature Love Vandal character in a parking lot at the southwest corner of 17th Street and 6th Avenue, painted in the fall of 2014, “still looks great!”
In short, there’s art around every corner in New York City, and you don’t need to pay for museum entry to see it. One might say the city in itself is a gallery, and given the scale of art it holds, we’re inclined to agree.