Larry Silverstein’s 72-floor tower, 4 World Trade Center, sits in the shadow of the 9/11 Memorial. In its own way, it is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers, and was one of the first buildings to go up after the attack on our city. Inviting artists to paint in unfinished spaces is not unusual for Silverstein Properties. In fact, Silverstein Properties has given free studio space to various artists for more than ten years, giving them an environment to not only paint, but also show and sell their work free of charge.
So it seemed a logical next step to allow art to speak to the horrific events of 9/11 by bringing together artists who wished to share their artistic abilities, collaboratively on the 69th floor, within 34,000 square-feet of raw space, overlooking One World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial, and all of southern Manhattan. Many of the artists had deep connections to not only New York, but also lower Manhattan in particular. This was an ambitious project – the ultimate pop-up in a new, high-security building – with some of the most well-known street artists in the country alongside talented, lesser-known, artists.
The project began over a year ago, when Dara McQuillan, Silverstein Properties’s Chief Marketing Officer, was meeting with Doug Smith, the owner of World Trade Gallery, who at the time had on view works done by many well-known street artists who he also represents. McQuillan was quite taken with the work, and suggested offering the artists a chance to paint on a larger canvas – the unfinished walls of a new building. It was then that the project known as Graffiti in the Sky took form.
Untapped Cities was fortunate to spend over an hour on the 69th floor with Doug Smith, the man who brought the artistic team together, and curated the project. Below are some of the images that fill the space and makes up the project. This space will soon become one of the floors occupied by Spotify, who recently signed a lease for 378,000 square feet on floors 62-72 as part of its New York headquarters.
Hand-painted on the cement floor, artist DUDA (David Uda). Below, curator, Doug Smith pointing out the section entitled “In Bloom” with one hand-painted flower for every person who died on this site, and 13 stripes representing the American flag.
$10 Bill by artist, David Hollier. The Hamilton bill is a tribute to the man who is buried just two blocks south, in Trinity Church Cemetery. $10 Bill was created with hand-painted text of the Broadway hit HAMILTON.
“Dakini Wonderland” by the artist, KIMYON3333. The Dakini, or sky dancer, translated from Tibetan, is the definitive expression and embodiment of divine female enlightened energy.
Left, “21 Characters” by Sonni. Center, “Phoenix” by Brooklyn-based artist Ben Angotti
“Optimistic Rebel” by artist, BoogieREZ
Four portraits of Larry Silverstein were painted, at various ages and perspectives of the artist. The above portrait by artist Hugo Bastidas, alongside is curator Doug Smith, pointing out the significance of “Prevail” by artist, Basil.
Curator, Doug Smith pointing out architectural significance in “II”, by artist Rubin 415 (Tony ‘Rubin’ Sjoman)
The original project hatched by McQuillan and Smith was thought to be temporary, with the artists and their work lost to a lessee, who would cover the beauty and the spirit of the project in white paint. However, with luck and just the right lessee, the artistic venture known as Graffiti in the Sky will remain in a high-profile, permanent ‘gallery’ of sorts, with daily exposure for the artists, and continued online press, honoring both their work and the resilience and spirit of the people of this city.
Join us for this weekend’s tour of the untold stories of 9/11:
Untold Stories of 9/11 Walking Tour
While you’re Downtown, check out 20 Permanent Outdoor Art Installations, and explore 12 Outdoor Art Installation to see on the Esplanade. Or take a behind the scenes tour, which is the very best way to see the City. You can get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.