Dating back to 1967, the concept of “public art” has been a part of New York City for several decades. Pieces that have gained spot in the heart of residents include Isamu Noguchi’s Red Cube located in the Financial District and Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture located in Midtown. Yet, while this public art may feel like it has been part of the NYC urban landscape for a long time, it is still a relatively new concept when looking at the world of art as a whole. It is this art and the history that it celebrates that has inspired a new museum exhibit on public art.
Public Art Funding
In 1977, the Public Art Fund was established in an effort to increase the amount of public art in the city. Similarly, the MTA’s Percent for Art program, which has a mission of bringing installations underground, has only been around for about 30 years. In the decades since these programs have been established, the amount of public art in NYC has been steadily on the rise and has enriched the lives of residents and visitors alike.
Recognizing the Impact of Public Art
In an effort to recognize the impact of public art, the Museum of the City of New York recently debuted its “Art in the Open” exhibit. This special exhibit explores the 50-year history of pubic art in New York as it looks at the thousands of open-air projects that have found a stage in the city. In doing so, the museum hopes to bring more attention and appreciation for the vast amount of public art that has graced the city’s streets while also exploring the diversity of these pieces.
As part of the exhibit, the museum will include 18 case studies that examine singular works of art such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates” that was staged in Central Park in 2005 along with the work of artists who have provided the city with numerous pieces of public art. Among these artists is Keith Haring, who got his start in public art by scrawling quick drawings throughout the subway system. One of his most famous pieces, the “Crack is Wack” mural, can still be found in a Harlem playground 31 years after it was installed.
In addition to exploring the artists who have brought their work to the city, the exhibition will also include some actual pieces of art as well. Rob Pruitt’s piece “The Andy Monument,” which was shown in Union Square in 2011, will be on display. Another piece on display at the exhibition is the molasses-covered sculptures of a young boy that were featured in Walker’s “A Subtlety.”
Connecting to History
Throughout the exhibit, connections between the public art and NYC history are also explored. For example, while Christo and Jeanne-Claude originally envisioned “The Gates” for 1979, it didn’t come to formation until former mayor Michael Bloomberg approved the project. The Bloomberg administration went on to give artists the freedom to explore new visions while also creating venues for their work.