Public art exhibitions featuring a common sculpture that is multiplied and then embellished by various artists have been popping up in cities worldwide since 1998. Artistic director Walter Knapp first came up with the idea and convinced artists to dot Zurich, Switzerland with a collection of artfully-decorated lions. Within a year, Chicago businessman Peter Hanig had taken the idea and ran with it, using life-sized cows for an exhibition titled CowParade that is still circling the world today.
This idea of serial public art spread like wildfire into over 70 cities across the United States and many other locations worldwide. Tourism administrations seem to think the installations draw a crowd, while the exhibitions typically end in pieces being auctioned off to charity. It’s a win-win for all–unless, of course, you think the artworks are an eyesore.
From mermaids to gorillas, click through the gallery below to see a sampling of serial public art from around the world.
Manhattan has a lot of great parks – but a handful tends to hog all the attention. Central Park is what it is; there’s just now way to compare it to anything else. Bryant Park has live performances and exhibitions (not to mention a starring role in Fashion Week) and is only a block from Times Square. And, there are others that would come to mind before you work your way down the list to one of my favorite open spaces in the city: Madison Square Park.
Don’t be misled – this park is nowhere near the “garden” of the same name. It sits between East 23d Street and East 26th Street and between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in a small pocket of New York that most visitors tend to skip. So, catch the R or W train to the East 23d Street stop, and get ready to enjoy Madison Square Park in six different ways.
1. Take care of two buildings at once The uniquely shaped Flatiron Building is right across the intersection from the southwest corner of the park, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway meet. What you may not realize, though, is that the northwest corner of the park (East 26th Street and Fifth Avenue) provides a great view of the Empire State Building. Crowds tend to form, for some reason, during morning rush hour (which sucks for the locals). Also, avoid lunch hour and evenings, as people who work nearby will get in the way of your shot.
3. Go to the bathroom If you aren’t fortunate enough to spot a celeb, drink some water. This will have the predictable effect and send you to one of only a handful of self-cleaning public toilets in the New York City. It’s on the southeast corner of Madison Square Park, and a quarter buys you 15 minutes. That should be plenty of time to take interior photos of the device that guest-starred on CSI:NY.
4. Enjoy some art There’s always a public art display of some kind in Madison Square Park. Right now, it’s Markers, an installation by Mel Kendrick, a Boston-born artist who’s now a resident of New York. This project consists of five pieces reflect the “rippling surfaces contain the fossil memory of the actions taken over time.” Like almost all the public art in Madison Square Park, Kendrick’s installation is definitely worth a look.
5. Grab a bite Sure, it’s tempting to head over to the storied Shake Shack in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park (near the toilet/TV star/murderer). But, if you’re looking for a substantial, enjoyable sit-down meal, go up to Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse, a few blocks north on East 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. Definitely make the ribeye your meal (it was amazing), but you’d be nuts not to start with the seafood platter. Take your time, and rest your feet for a bit, especially if you’ve been wandering around the city all day. The staff is attentive and accommodating, and they will not rush you. This is a great alternative to the long waits and hope-you-can-pull-it-off reservation situations at the steakhouses in mid-town. And, the dark-wooded interior drives home the insider feel that makes any steak dinner in Manhattan complete.
Munster, Germany was almost totally destroyed during World War II. If there is any indication that “Art Saves Lives,” as I used to see on art pins sold in the Mariposa Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Sculpture Project Munster, is it. Every ten years this outdoor sculpture exhibit pulls in artists‘ work from different countries to infuse vibrancy into the human experience. There are 37 artists on the list. This year’s theme is to show how art transforms public space. To go along with the exhibit there are lectures, film screenings and discussions.
The exhibit, June 17-September 30 is a chance to see how you interact with the environment when you interact with the sculptures. Once each exhibit is over, Munster keeps some of the sculptures making this a city to see if you like outdoor art. There are 34 sculptures still on display from previous years.
If you are interested in heading here, the Web site has a Grand Tour page with visitor information.