Misha Kahn: Midden Heap at Friedman Benda Gallery

This month, Untapped Cities is putting on its holiday hat as a Sea of Light brightens up South Street Seaport, a Gingerbread Village sprouts up in Madison Square Park and the annual Holiday Train Show takes place at the New York Botanical Garden. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: New Yorkers can also head to Midtown to view the newly unveiled department store windows and laminated pet ornaments hanging from the Holiday Memorial Tree in Central Park.

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, these exhibits transport viewers to fun, often whimsical places. Here are 17 exhibits and installations not to miss in December:

17. Misha Kahn: Midden Heap at Friedman Benda Gallery

Misha Kahn: Midden Heap

In the exhibit, Misha Kahn: Midden Heap, Kahn presents large-scale sulptures made from material collected during his scavenging missions in Brooklyn’s Dead Horse Bay, where trash covers the shoreline in place of sand. “Through a combination of weaving, metal cladding, glassblowing, and bronze casting, Kahn juxtaposes rich materials with found objects, discarded possessions and garbage,” the exhibition blurb states.

With this exhibit, Kahn, who lives and works in New York City, “has transformed a white-walled gallery space into a delightfully inventive alternate reality.” Misha Kahn: Midden Heap will be on view to December 16, 2017 at Friedman Benda Gallery, 515 West 26th Street, NYC. Read more about Dead Horse Bay here.

16. Richard Avedon: Nothing Personal at Pace Gallery

Pace Gallery presents Richard Avedon: Nothing Personal, a collection of photographs and archival materials drawn from Avedon’s 1964 collaboration with James Baldwin. In 1963, Avedon, who photographed Baldwin for a magazine assignment, suggested that they collaborate on a book about life in America, with Avedon creating photographic portraits and Baldwin writing the essays. Their subjects ranged from civil rights icons to popular sports figures.

The original 1964 project, Nothing Personal, was denounced at the time. It has since become recognized as a “masterwork whose powerful message of a confused and often compromised society seeking fleeting moments of joy, grace and occasional redemption remains equally relevant more than a half-century later.”

TASCHEN will republish a facsimile edition of Nothing Personal, with an accompanying booklet containing a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, Hilton Als, and rare and unpublished Avedon photographs. Richard Avedon: Nothing Personal will be on view to January 13, 2018 at Pace Gallery, 537 West 24th Street. This will be the first comprehensive presentation of this period of his work.

15. Geta Brătescu: The Leaps of Aesop at Hauser & Wirth

Geta Brătescu: The Leaps of Aesop is the first New York solo exhibit of Romanian artist Geta Brătescu. Her compelling story goes back to her studies at the University of Bucharest and the Academy of Fine Arts (1945-49), where she was expelled from the Academy before completing her degree, being declared ‘of bad origins’ by the Communist Party.

Upon returning to the university in 1969, Brătescu went on to create a series of work throughout the 1970s that would define her artistic career, focusing on the studio as a place to “redefine the self.” She developed   her most famous film, Atelierul (The Studio) in 1978, made with Ion Grigorescu. Feeling a connection between literature and art, she found Aesop, Faust and Medea of particular interest for her drawing, photography, filmmaking and performance work. Geta Brătescu, at age 91, currently lives and works in Bucharest, Romania. The exhibition, Geta Brătescu: The Leaps of Aesop, is “devoted to the artist’s pioneering achievements,” and will be on view until December 23, 2017 at Hauser & Wirth, 548 West 22nd Street.

14. Kenny Scharf at Deitch Projects Soho

Kenny Scharf: Inner and Outer Space at Deitch Projects

Untapped Cities finally made it to Deitch Projects, and as luck would have it, the exhibit Kenny Scharf: Inner and Outer Space was on view. While Scharf was born in Los Angeles, where he resides today, he attended the School of Visual Arts (BFA 1980) in New York, and was very much a part of the 1980’s East Village art scene. His comic book inspired work, though playful and optimistic, give way to deeper and timely messages for the viewer to discover.

Of the exhibit, Scharf states that he is “reacting to our increasingly out-of-control situation.” Viewers are encouraged to look beneath “the facade and focus on ecology, environment and capitalist excess.” Kenny Scharf: Inter and Outer Space will be on view to December 22, 2017 at Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster Street.

13. Concrete Jungle at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery

Last year, Emmanuel Fremin Gallery presented artist Hung Yi’s installation, ‘The Fancy Animal Carnival,‘ along the Broadway Mall in the Garment District. Hung Yi has returned this month for a joint exhibit with artist Young Sam Kim, called Concrete Jungle.

Playing on each other’s imagination and whimsy, Yi presents new animal sculptures, inspired by Taiwanese culture, while Kim brings the viewer on an imagined tour through the psychology and philosophy of the modern world of alternative construction.

Concrete Jungle will be on view until December 30, 2017. Emmanuel Fremin Gallery is located at 547 West 27th Street, #510 in Chelsea.

12. Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo at John Jay College

Moath al-Alwi, Model of a Ship, 2015. Image via Art From Guantánamo Bay by Erin Thompson

Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo exhibits over thirty works — drawings, paintings, and three-dimensional pieces — created by current detainees at Guantanamo Bay military prison camp.

Although the exhibit focuses around the common theme of the ocean, many of the detainees had actually never seen the sea as heavy tarps cover all the fences. Materials were also limited, so sculptures were created from whatever they were given or could find, including pieces of shirts, prayer caps, razors, mops, and stones.

It was announced this week that the Department of Defense planned to seize and destroy the artwork. The tenuous future of the exhibit, which is yet to be determined, was recently addressed by the exhibit’s curator in an op-ed in the New York Times. A petition to stop the destruction of Art at Guantanamo has been circulating. Read more here.

Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo will be on view through January 26, 2018 in the President’s Gallery of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 899 Tenth Avenue at 59th Street, 6th floor. This is a free exhibit, open Monday – Friday from 1-4pm. Take a deeper dive into the works with the exhibit catalogue.

11. Steven Laxton: Free to Be Me at The LGBT Community Center

Brooklyn-based photographer, Steven Laxton, has partnered with the LGBT Community Center and Immigration Equality (the nation’s leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization) for a photography and essay exhibit entitled, Free to Be Me, at The Center. The exhibit shares the powerful stories of trans and queer refugees, who have received asylum and are building new lives in the United States.

Steven Laxton: Free to Be Me will be on view through the end of this year. The Center is located at 208 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village.

10. “Premonition” at Lever House on Park Avenue

The beautiful art space at Lever House on Park Avenue opened its doors for a new solo exhibit by Brooklyn-based artist, Reginald Sylvester II, entitled Premonition. The exhibition introduces eight acrylic works on canvas, and a series of oil-crayon sketches set on a unique setting of chain-link fences. The setting portrays the artists sense of imprisonment, and the “state of the world today…evoking a dystopian future that leaves the viewer with a hostile foreboding and disheartening feeling of what is to come.” Colorful, figurative paintings reference not only biblical scripture, but also events we see in the news today, delving into contemporary themes such as identity and youth culture.

Premonition will be on view to February, 2018 at Lever House, 390 Park Avenue, between 53rd-54th Streets. While you’re there, check out Rob Fisher’s City, 2017, located in front of the Lever House.

9. Downton Abbey: The Exhibition on 57th Street

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition arrived on 57th Street, transporting viewers to Edwardian England. It brings to life the beloved television show, and is “filled with social history, culture, and even some of the most memorable moments from the show’s six-season run.” Within the interactive exhibit, visitors can open the door to Mr. Carson’s pantry, Lady Mary’s bedroom and even interact with the exhibit by testing your fitness for a servant’s position.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibit will be on view for a limited time at 218 West 57th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Purchase advance tickets here.

8. Enter the World of Louis Vuitton, The Exhibit

Image courtesy Louis Vuitton

Enter the world of Louis Vuitton at the exhibit Volez, Voguez, Voyagez. A historic journey and timeline of the House of Louis Vuitton, the exhibit is divided into ten chapters, one of which is entirely devoted to the United States and New York City. It retraces the iconic House of Louis Vuitton from 1854 to present day, featuring objects and documents from the Louis Vuitton heritage archives, in addition to articles on loan from the Palais Galliera, and the Musée de la Ville de Paris.

Louis Vuitton: Volez, Voguez, Voyagez will be on view to January 7, 2018 at the American Stock Exchange Building, 86 Trinity Place, NYC. Reserve free visit here.

7. Sea of Light Coming to the Seaport District

Image courtesy Sea of Light: An Interactive Journey Through Light and Sound

The holiday installation, Sea of Light, is a public art project developed by Alexander Green and Symmetry Labs, which will make its debut at South Street Seaport on December 5. The installation will be a “fully immersive sensory adventure,” showcasing innovative lighting technology that incorporates 150,000 individually programmable LEDs appearing in colorful spheres. Symmetry Labs is known for its iconic large-scale installations at events like The Super Bowl, 29 Rooms and Burning Man.

Sea of Light: An Interactive Journey Through Light and Sound will kick-off with an unveiling on Tuesday, December 5 from 5:30-7:30pm. This is a free event (RSVP here). The installation will be on view for three months, and is located at 19 Fulton Street in the Seaport District.

6. Yayoi Kusama at David Zwirner Galleries

Yayoi Kusama, With All My Love for The Tulips, I Pray Forever ,2012. Installation View, YAYOI KUSAMA ETERNITY OF ETERNAL ETERNITY, the National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan, 2012. Image ©Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; YAYOI KUSAMA Inc.

At the age of 88, Yayoi Kusama continues to reinvent ‘The Room’ and mesmerize viewers of all ages.

David Zwirner Gallery is currently presenting two separate exhibits for Yayoi Kusama at two separate galleries. Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life at David Zwirner Chelsea (525 and 533 West 19th Street) with two “Infinity Rooms” on view through December 16, 2017, and Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Nets at David Zwirner Upper East Side (34 East 69th Street), on view through December 22, 2017.

Be sure to check out Kusama’s Pumpkin Sky on 42nd Street.

5. Central Park Memorial Tree for Pets

Memorial Tree for Pets, image taken in 2014

For the past several years, Untapped Cities has been trekking deep into Central Park, in search of the memorial tree that honors pets who have passed away. Their memory endures not just with their owners, but also on this tree, which is used every year as a memorial.

It’s laden with ornaments bearing laminated photos, messages, and even pet toys on hooks. In the past, we have come across pet owners and their new pets standing together at this sacred location. It is a place where people come to remember and share their fondest memories. Each year we share this tradition, and honor its secret location.

4. Luminaries Lights Up Brookfield Place

Brookfield Place kicked-off the holiday season with its annual installation, Luminaries, in the Winter Garden. The glass enclosed space will light up along with three, touch-sensitive Wishing Stations, positioned within the Winter Garden. Guests can send a ‘wish’ to the lanterns above by way of these stations, which will pulse with color when a wish is received. For every wish sent by the public, Brookfield Place will donate $1, up to $25,000, to the GRAMMY Museum’s music education programs.

Related events include New York Classical Theatre’s ‘Christmas Carol,’ ice skating, and performances by original Dickens carolers, featuring MC Beats. Check the schedule for days and times.

Luminaries is a free event on view to January 5, 2018 in the Winter Garden. Brookfield Place is located at 230 Vesey Street. This event is in collaboration with the design firm LAB at Rockwell Group.

3. Gingerbread Village Returns to Madison Square Park

Gingerbread Village in Madison Square Park 2016

Gingerbread Village returns to Madison Square Park, presenting a life-size gingerbread house that is decorated with a “frosting” covered roof, peppermint sticks, gum drops and all manner of other trimmings. The interactive installation, presented by Taste of Home, a food and entertainment brand, allows visitors to embark on a” journey of sight, sound and motion.” Hashtag #holidayheritage and have your Gingerbread Village photos displayed on a large digital screen.

Gingerbread Village at Madison Square Park is a free event, opening on December 9, and will remain on view to December 23, 2017. Madison Square Park is located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street. Follow Gingerbread Village at Madison Square Park on Facebook.

While you’re there, step across the street to view the new installation, Flatiron Reflections, on the 23rd Street/Flatiron Triangle.

2. Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden and Applied Imagination presents the annual Holiday Train Show, now in its 26th year. This year, the exhibit will display 150 landmarks, featuring Midtown Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers with new replicas of the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, General Electric Building, and St. Bartholomew’s Church. The exhibit boasts over a dozen large-scale model railway locomotives, with nearly a half-mile of track.

Related events include Bar Car Night, Holiday Film Screenings, a Holiday Landmarks Tour, a Tree Lighting, and a host of other events. The Holiday Train Show will be on view to January 15, 2018 at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in the New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. Advance tickets here.

1. 2017 NYC Holiday Windows

Holiday Window at Lord & Taylor, 2017

The unveiling of the holiday windows in Manhattan have become an much anticipated annual event. This year, Untapped Cities embarked on a mission to track down a few of this year’s best, including Macy’s, Bergdorf’s, Tiffany’s, Lord & Taylor, Saks, Henri Bendel, and Cartier.

The big takeaway from our little excursion is that there are a lot of New York City-themed windows. See our photos here.

Until January, happy holidays!

Next, check out 12 Holiday Markets in NYC and see photos of the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show. Get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.