Over the years, especially recently, New Yorkers might have noticed some odd structures and art installations popping up along the streets of New York City. These objects have ranged from giant rats and buttons to feathers, bagels, different kinds of animals and tiny replicas. Though some no longer exist, we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the abnormally large or small objects that have sprung up. Thus, here’s a list of some objects that have appeared throughout New York City with the wrong dimensions, some of which might surprise you if you’ve never run into them.
24. Fairy Doors
Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler
In 2014, mysterious miniature “fairy” doors began popping up all over New York City. They were all kinds of colors, had different designs and were architecturally detailed. They were also tagged with QR Codes that led to the Speakeasy Dollhouse and other theater pieces by Cynthia von Buhler. Interestingly, fans of von Buhler installed these doors, rather than von Buhler herself.
23. Landmarks At the Holiday Train Shows
A small-scale version of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral at the New York Botanical Garden
At the annual Holiday Train Show the New York Botanical Garden has filled the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory with miniature versions of famous landmarks in a vibrant garden setting. The structures have been made of plant material like acorns, twigs, bark, berries and leaves. These landmarks have included the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport, the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, City Hall and Gracie Mansion.
22. Rats and Cats In Manhattan
The oversized, bronze rat in Midtown Manhattan
While walking around Manhattan, you might have come across huge inflatable rats and cats. The 12-foot inflatable “union rats” were put up by trade unions to call attention to a dispute between them and their employers. Since around 1991, unions around the country have used these to protest companies that employ nonunion labor.
There also used to be a bronze version of these huge rats in midtown Manhattan in the plaza of the Lever House at 390 Park Avenue. It was called “The New Colossus,” as part of a project from The Bruce High Quality Foundation as a symbol of working class defiance against exploitation.
21. The Garment District Button
The giant button threaded with a needle on 7th Avenue and 39th Street is hard to miss. It is part of the Fashion Center Information Kiosk designed by Pentagram Architectural Services in 1996 and inspired by Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures. According to the New York Times, the stainless steel needle was 31-feet long and had a 2-foot eye threaded through a 14-foot button. In 2011, it was deemed the world’s largest button.
20. The Riverside Park Engagement Ring
Until May 2014, a huge, fiberglass and wood engagement ring sat in Riverside Park South along the Hudson River near 66th Street as part of the annual Art Students League public sculpture program, Model to Monument (M2M). Reina Kubota created this art installation, titled “Ringo.” Atop the ring sat a “Big Apple” with a huge bite taken out of it. Naturally, Ringo became a popular spot for real marriage proposals.
19. The Seagram Building Bear
In 2011, Urs Fischer’s art installation featuring a 23-foot tall bear lying against a lamp welcomed visitors into the Seagram Building. The bear’s bright yellow color and rugged appearance starkly contrasting with the Seagram Building’s pitch black, sleek exterior. Fischer returned last year to the Seagram Building plaza with the sculpture Big Clay #4.
18. Hello Kitty In Manhattan
Last April, a 9-foot tall, clear sculpture of Hello Kitty appeared in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (a public space familiar to large scale art). But it was more than just a sculpture; it was a time capsule to collect people’s memories (called “kawaii”). Japanese artist Sebastian Masuda created it, describing kawaii as “objects and feelings uniquely personalized by each individual.” An official time capsule ceremony was held on May 3rd.
17. Spools of Thread In Central Park
Central Park has many statues of notable people, but last year it had an art installation of 212 huge spools of thread? The installation was called Desire Lines, part of the Public Art Fund, and sat by Fifth Avenue and 60th Street.
16. Eyes On Battery Park City Esplanade
Louis Bourgeois created the art piece “Eyes” for Battery Park City, which consists of two giant, granite eyeballs (37″ x 37″ x 37) constructed in 1995. Located in Wagner Park, these eyes overlook the Hudson River and generally attract children to play on.
15. Easter Eggs
The Faberge Easter Egg Hunt, the world’s biggest Easter egg hunt, took place last year. Each egg was uniquely designed by a different artist or brand. During the hunt, over 275, 2.5-foot-tall sculpted eggs adorned areas spread around New York City, making them much bigger than your typical egg.
14. Statue of Liberty Replicas
While the real Statue of Liberty stands tall and proud on Liberty Island at a height of about 151 feet from base to torch, other small-scale replicas around New York City. These replicas can be found at places including 667 Madison Avenue, the Brooklyn Museum, 161st street in the Bronx, the former Toys R Us in Times Square, and in Long Island City.
13. The Feather at Riverside Park
Until June 2016, you can head over to the Riverside Park Bird Sanctuary and see its 12-foot tall feather sculpture. This sculpture, called Sky Feather, was created by Petros Chrisostomou with stained and sealed birch plywood and symbolizes journey and flight. It was formerly exhibited at 124th Street and Lennox Avenue. However, there’s more to this statue than just aesthetic: it serves as a meeting point and place of discussion for park visitors and bird watchers.
12. Bagels In Manhattan
Last summer marked the takeover of Greenwich Village and Hudson River Park by giant bagel sculptures. The 17-foot statue was created by Swiss artist Hanna Liden, who said one of her earliest memories in New York City was a trip to a bagel shop in the Meatpacking District. Thus, the styrofoam and polyurethane sculptures invoked both nostalgia and humor.
11. Masks at Rockefeller Center
Thomas Houseago’s commission Masks (Pentagon) was on view on the plaza from April 28 – June 24, 2015. This installation consisted of five clay cast masks in industrial-strength synthetic plastic. The masks’ heights ranged from 14 1/2 feet to 16 1/2 feet and sat on a stepped base pedestal. On the inside of the installation, you could find the artist’s hand print and his young daughter’s footprints.
10. Christmas Lights Along Sixth Avenue
Photo via Flickr by gigi_nyc
During the Christmas season, you might have seen giant Christmas light bulbs and ornaments along Avenue of the Americas in front of the McGraw Hill building. Illuminated at night and energy-efficient, these giant lights weighed 6,000 pounds in 2010.
9. The Knotted Gun At The United Nations Sculpture Garden
“The Knotted Gun,” also called “Non-Violence” is a pro-peace sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd to memorialize the shooting of John Lennon. There are 17 of them around the world, with 10 located in Sweden. This sculpture was installed in front of the United Nations headquarters in 1988.
8. The Beating Heart In Times Square
Last February and March, a large, pulsating, plastic heart sculpture sat in the heart of Times Square for Valentine’s Day season. Unsurprisingly called “HeartBeat,” the statue let pedestrians know that love was in the air. It was designed by the studio Stereotank and not only beat rhythmically, but could also light up at night. It encouraged passing lovers to drum the sculpture or use the different percussion instruments on the outside to create an interactive experience that unified the community. This piece won the Times Square Alliance’s annual design competition for a Valentine Heart Sculpture.
7. The French Bulldog In Midtown East
Photo via Wikimedia: Jakline
In 2011, an eight-foot tall statue of a French bulldog stood in front of the New York Palace Hotel. This colorful art installation, called “Doggy John,” was created by French artist Julien Marinetti, who specializes in dog sculptures.
6. Roses On Park Avenue
25-foot-tall roses once sat along Park Avenue between 57th and 67th streets, adding warmth to cold winter days in New York City. This display of huge light pink and deep red flowers on giant green stems was Will Ryman’s first installation. The coolest part was the stems actually appeared to be rooted in the dirt. There were even sculpted bumblebees flying around the roses.
5. Spiders at Rockefeller Center
In 2001, Louise Bourgeois’s “Maman,” a 30-foot-tall spider accompanied by two smaller arachnids, welcomed (or perhaps scared away) people at Rockefeller Center. The year before, a 42-foot sculpture of a dog, called “Puppy,” towered over Rockefeller Center. It was covered in 70,000 flowering plants. Last year, another similar, oversized Jeff Koons structure called “Split-Rocker” came to Rockefeller Center, which was half pony and half dinosaur. Rockefeller Center has been home to several oversized art installations over the years.
4. The Miniature Brooklyn Bridge In Brooklyn
The cute model is the the Brooklyn Bridge of Cobble Hill. The replica was seen last year, made of wood, wire and some nails. You would have found it at Clinton Street, between Warren Street and Verandah Place.
3. The Eiffel Tower Replica In Queens
You might be surprised to learn that New York City has a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Queens along the Long Island Expressway. It belongs to the Paris Suites Hotel, which is a “a veritable palace of marble and mirrors the Paris Suites Hotel recreates the ambiance of European culture and elegance.”
2. The Charging Bull In The Financial District
While it’s not too large compared to other statues on this list, the iconic Charging Bull sculpture in the Financial District, is oversized and larger than your average bull. This bronze sculpture stands proudly at 11 feet tall, is 16 feet long and weighs 7,100 pounds. Created by Arturo Di Modica in 1987 to symbolize American strength after the stock market crash, this statue has come to represent Wall Street and its financial institution as a whole.
1. The FAO Schwarz Piano
Ah yes, who would forget about FAO Schwarz’s iconic giant piano? Many people flocked here everyday to dance around on it or try to play a real tune with their feet. FAO Schwarz first installed the piano in 1982 and consistently upgraded it with newer versions. In 2013, it was about 15.8 feet long, 3.5 feet wide, had 48 keys and four octaves, and could withstand 1,000 pounds of pressure per square foot. It became even more iconic thanks to its part in the 1988 film Big starring Tom Hanks.
Next, read about New York City and Paris’s smaller replicas of the Statue of Liberty and 10 Statues You Wouldn’t Expect to See in Manhattan’s Public Spaces. Get in touch with the author @sgeier97.