With the weather finally starting to get warmer, May in New York City is always an exciting time for the public art sphere. The unofficial start of summer brings an abundance of dynamic art installations and experiences. This month, New Yorkers will be able to take part in a pop up forest bike tour, view mythological sculptures in Madison Square Park and see unearthly planted on top of the Met’s roof.
In addition to these exciting installations, be sure to keep an eye out for other exhibits opening all over the city. Here are 17 not to miss in May:
1. ‘We Come in Peace’ Comes to Met’s Rooftop
Image by Hyla Skopitz via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met’s rooftop site specific installation, titled We Come In Peace, is now on view to the public until October. Created by Pakistani artist Huma Bhabha, this rooftop installation is the Met’s sixth in a series of site specific commissions for the outdoor roof space. The sculptures consist of the 12-foot-tall five-headed intersex figure “We Come in Peace,” and the 18-foot-long prostrate Benaam — an Urdu word that translates to “without name.”
We Come in Peace borrows its title from the classic American science-fiction film The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), a tale of first contact between humans and aliens. The sculptures are cast in bronze, but were initially handcrafted to scale by Bhabha using ephemeral materials, such as cork, Styrofoam, air-dried clay, and plastic.
2. ‘Delirious Matter’ in Madison Square Park
Photo by Lynn Lieberman/Gotham to Go
On view from May 7th to September 3rd, Madison Square Park will welcome a new public art exhibition, Delirious Matter, by Brooklyn-based artist Diana Al-Hadid. Delirious Matter is Al-Hadid’s first major public art project, and The Madison Square Park Conservancy’s thirty-sixth exhibition, which will feature six new sculptures to be installed across the park’s central Oval Lawn, peripheral lawns and northern reflecting pool.
The Madison Square Park Conservancy notes that Al-Hadid’s integration of sculpture with plant material will be a first for the program. The aforementioned walls, which deceivingly appear fragile, will stand in direct contrast to the concrete and steel skyscrapers surrounding the park. For more on the project, visit madisonsquarepark.org, and join the conversation via social media by using the hashtags #MadSqArt, #DianaAlHadid, and #MadSqDeliriousMatter.
3. Design Pavilion Installations and Programming
From May 12th to the 20th, Design Pavilion in partnership with the Times Square Alliance will return to Times Square for its third year with an extended program of engaging design installations, performances, talks, and retail experiences. Design Pavilion — a site-specific “design happening” that comes to life annually during New York City’s official design week, NYCxDESIGN —offers programs and brings together curated installations from leading architects, designers, artists, and choreographers, which will be on display throughout five plazas.
This year’s designs address the theme “From this Day Forward,” ultimately working to showcase Design Pavilion’s commitment to the future and innovation. Design Pavilion is free, open to the public, and expected to draw more than 3 million visitors. For more information, visit Design Pavilion’s website.
On May 17th, Untapped Cities Insiders are also invited to a NYCxDESIGN 2018 event that will explore El Space, a design experiment aimed at turning the spaces under New York City’s hundreds of miles of elevated highways, subway lines, and bridges into valuable community assets. El Space is part of a project by the Design Trust for Public Space, in partnership the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), aimed at creating a more hospitable pedestrian experience, greater environmental resiliency, and enhanced lighting under the city’s tracks and roadways.
At this unique event, our members will have the opportunity to mingle with project Fellows, DOT officials and Design Trust program staff at the El Space pilot installation located underneath the Gowanus Expressway at 36th Street and 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park, and attend a panel discussion at Industry City. The panel will include experts and practitioners who are innovating ways to reclaim aging elevated infrastructure and the spaces beneath, in cities across North America such as Atlanta, Boston, Miami, and Toronto. For more information about Untapped Cities Insiders, click here.
4. 30-Foot-Wide Winged Creation Comes to Rockefeller Center
Photo by Lynn Lieberman/Gotham to Go
From May 2nd to July 22nd, 2018, a winged sculpture can be found at the top of Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens, between 49th and 50th Streets in Midtown Manhattan, facing Fifth Avenue. It’s the first site-specific outdoor public sculpture from prominent German artist Anselm Kiefer ever to be commissioned for the United States. Titled Uraeus, the work consists of a gigantic open book with eagle’s wings, spanning 30 feet and made of lead, sitting on top of a 20-foot-tall lead-clad stainless steel column.
The column’s base will feature giant lead books, while a large snake coils up its length. The sculpture’s title, Uraeus, refers to the erect shape of the Egyptian cobra, associated with the serpent goddess Wadjet and a symbol of power and divine authority. For more, check out Public Art Fund’s write up on the sculpture.
5. ‘When We Were Young’ at Brookfield Place
Photo by Jeremy Gordon, courtesy Arts Brookfield
From May 7th to May 23rd, Brookfield Place will be hosting When We Were Young, an exhibition by contemporary visual artist Carlos Rolón, which will feature four bicycle installations: Boriqua Sound System, The Majestics (For Louise), and two new bicycle sculptures specially commissioned by Arts Brookfield, titled SUNNY & LEE.
When We Were Young aims to make a statement regarding worldwide trend of bicycles as a means of transportation that is reshaping major cities. This exhibition is presented as part of NYCxDESIGN, New York City’s annual celebration of design through exhibitions, installations and events. For more, visit Arts Brookfield.
6. Pop Up Forest Bike Tour
Photo courtesy PopUp Bike Tour Event Page
A popup mobile woodland is arriving to Manhattan on May 11th, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of NYC Wildflower Week, which presents annual events dedicated to showcasing the city’s natural wonders. To inspire New Yorkers to protect the natural heritage around them, the mobile forest will take to the streets of New York City, beginning in Manhattan at the Brooklyn Bridge and finishing in Times Square.
The organizers hope to raise awareness about urban wild places, foster emotional engagement and connect urbanites to nature. New Yorkers are encouraged to visit the bike at scheduled locations to take nature selfies amidst the foliage, see cute kids dressed as white milkweed, and grab free plants. A variety of events will also be offered during NYC Wildflower Week from May 11th to May 20th, 2018, including a spring migration bird walk, a workshop on urban gardening with native plants, and a visit to the wildflowers in the northwest woods in The Bronx. For more information, visit the nycwildflowerweek.org and check out the full event page.
7. First Nations Signal Rededication Ceremony
Mel Chin, Signal, installation view, 1997. Photo by Rob Wilson from MTA Arts & Design.
On May 13th, a rededication ceremony of Mel Chin’s Signal will take place inside the Broadway-Lafayette Street station to honor indigenous contributions to the public artwork and acknowledge the history of the site as a former Native American trail. The ceremony is a collaboration between No Longer Empty, Queens Museum, AMERINDA (American Indian Artists Inc.), and MTA Arts & Design. The ceremony will be hosted by members of the Iroquois Six Nations, who will welcome participants to the site, sharing remarks on the history of New York City and current environmental battles being waged in the region.
A new plaque will be presented that adds the contributions of G. Peter Jemison (Heron Clan-Seneca), and members of the Iroquois Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) to the conception of Mel Chin’s Signal, a permanent installation that was commissioned in 1997 by MTA Arts & Design as part of the Broadway-Lafayette Street station rehabilitation. For the installation, Chin designed light “signals” patterned after “Council Fire” badges, masonic symbols reimagined by 18th century Iroquois silversmiths. Stainless steel cones at the bases of structural columns light up when trains approach. The message on the walls today affirms they are here, holding strong and extending peace. The Signal Rededication Ceremony is a part of the multi-site exhibition, Mel Chin: All Over The Place — co-presented by No Longer Empty and the Queens Museum — which is currently on view at the Queens Museum and will unveil large-scale sculpture and mixed-reality projects in Times Square this July.
8. Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway: In Dreams Awake
Photo by Lynn Lieberman
The Broadway Mall Association has debuted Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway: In Dreams Awake. The new exhibit, which was installed the week of April 15th, includes six works featured on the Broadway center mediums, located on 64th, 72nd, 79th, 96th, 116th, and 157th Streets.
Each sculpture — described as a combination of human, animal and plant forms — is made from cast silicon bronze, and range between 6 feet to 15 feet in height. (Some even feature LED lighting!) The exhibit will be on view through February 2019.
9. Three New Mental Health Murals Around NYC
“Reflections of Ourselves & Each Other (Seeing Through a Unique Lens,” by muralist Aaron Lazansky-Olivas and members of Acacia Network, installed above the elevated Prospect Avenue subway stop in Morrisania, the Bronx. Photo Credit: Will Ragozzino for the NYC Mural Arts Project.
Three murals will be painted in Morrisania and Mount Hope in the Bronx and Crown Heights in Brooklyn this spring! Designed by local artists who have experience dealing with mental health conditions, these new murals have been sponsored by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to support those struggling with similar struggles. The concepts were developed through a series of workshops with peer specialists and community organizers.
“The NYC Mural Arts Project shows how joyful art with strong messages can help educate, heal and beautify our communities,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts. “When people see positive reflections of mental well being where they live, it helps put an end to stigma, isolation and misinformation.” Volunteers are invited to help paint sections of the murals in the Bronx on May 12th from 11am to 4pm, and in Brooklyn on May 5th from 11:30am to 4pm.
10. Outdoor Art Exhibit at Washington Square Park
Starting May 26th, the sidewalks along Washington Square Park will be hosting stands for artists who wish to set up shop and sell their wares. The show will feature works of hundreds of exhibitors who will display their paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry, and woodcraft.
The tradition of the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit began during the Depression Era. When artist Jackson Pollock desperately needed funds to pay his rent on his Greenwich Village studio and home, he took some of his paintings outside to sell them along a sidewalk near Washington Square Park. Other artists and luminaries then latched onto Pollock’s idea, thus beginning the art exhibit. It is now a twice-a-year happening, every Memorial Day Weekend and the weekend that follows, and every Labor Day Weekend and the weekend that follows. For more, visit Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit in New York City’s page.
11. AMAZE, a Labyrinthine Art Experience in Soho
Photograph by Plamen Petkov courtesy Visionaire
Hosted inside Soho’s The Cadillac House and presented by art and fashion publication Visionaire, AMAZE is a labyrinthine installation that invites visitors to navigate through a series of exciting optical and auditory illusions. Visitors can expect to find themselves lost among metal bead curtains, geometric patterned walls, colored windows that shift the interpretation of light sources, and more.
Designed in collaboration with Architecture at Large founder, Rafael de Cárdenas, and visual artist, composer, and vocalist Sahra Motalebi, AMAZE offers visitors a range of different rooms to visually and aurally interact with. AMAZE will be on view until June 10th at The Gallery at Cadillac House located at 330 Hudson Street.
12. AGORA Group Installation on The High Line
AGORA has debuted on The High Line! This outdoor group exhibition by nine artists explores the role of art and artists in defining, creating, and using public space. The name of the exhibit is inspired by the same ancient Greek word, which literally translates to a gathering place — a fitting name as New York City’s public spaces have served as a home to a plethora of artworks over the decades, ranging from WPA murals to graffiti tags.
AGORA will focus on the power of art to change society. As such, it addresses current issues, including women’s rights, mass incarceration, the environment and immigration. For instance, the work above, “C.R.E.A.M.,” by Sable Elyse Smith, is an altered replica of the Hollywood Sign that reads IRONWOODLAND — a reference both to the Ironwood State Prison and to “Hollywoodland,” the segregated real estate development that was advertised by the original sign. The exhibit will be on view until March 2019 at various locations along The High Line.
13. Gillie and Marc’s ‘The Last Three,’ The World’s Tallest Rhino at Astor Place
In March, Gillie and Marc unveiled the world’s largest rhino statue, The Last Three, at Astor Place in an attempt to bring awareness to wildlife conservation and to encourage the global community to end rhino horn sales. In preparation for the piece, the artists spent a week at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy observing the world’s final three Northern White Rhinos, Sudan and his infertile daughters Najin and Fatu. (Devastatingly, Sudan has since passed away due to an age-related medical condition.)
The Last Three by Gillie and Marc is now on view at Astor Place. Read more about the sculpture here. You may have also encountered Gillie and Marc’s other unique and fun-loving installations around the city, from Paparazzi Dogs in DUMBO and Greenwich Village, to Dogman and Rabbitgirl at the Table of Love — each with a message encouraging conversation.
14. Phyllida Barlow: Prop to Arrive on the North Spur Preserve of the High Line
Phyllida Barlow for the High Line. Photo courtesy High Line Art
Phyllida Barlow’s prop will be the first artwork ever to be presented on the North Spur Preserve of The High Line. Consisting of two large concrete panels with holes cut from their centers, and set on stilts, the installation appears like a character teetering among planks and emerging from the planting beds below it. A prime example of adaptive reuse, The High Line provides the perfect context for Barlow, known for her use of throwaway materials, and the presentation of her work.
The sculpture, which viewers will be able to see from the street below, will stand on a railway spur at 16th Street that used to run directly into a refrigerated warehouse northwest of the former Nabisco cookie factory. Phyllida Barlow’s prop will be on view from May 5th until March 2019.
15. TEFAF New York Spring
From May 4th to May 8th, 2018, New York City will be welcoming back the legendary TEFAF fair at the Park Avenue Armory for its spring edition. This year’s fair will exhibit a mix of modern and contemporary art and design. Participating galleries include the Gagosian, Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Paul Kasmin Gallery, and more.
The fair is widely popular among art dealers and lovers, giving guests the chance to meet other leading curators and collectors. The fair is unfolding in early May in order to coincide with other modern and contemporary art and design auctions, exhibitions, and other art fairs in New York. For more, check out the TEFAF information page.
16. Midnight Moment at Times Square
Courtesy of Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts
Times Square’s Midnight Moment is back: catch Peter Burr and Clocktower Production’s Pattern Language until May 31st! Built in a video game engine, Pattern Language is described as a “rhythmic, strobing composition” in black and white.
Viewers will be immersed in a labyrinth of cellular automata, dots, structures and algorithms that come together to form “Dirtscraper,” an inverted, underground skyscraper that’s populated by non-gendered figures. Learn more here.
17. Grown Up Flowers on Avenue of the Americas
Grown Up Flowers by Playlab, Inc. is now on view on the Avenue of the Americas through July 2018! Sponsored by the Avenue of the Americas Association, the exhibit is comprised of six giant inflatable flowers installed between 44th Street to 55th Streets.
Untapped Cities contributor AFineLyne, also the author of GothamToGo, writes that each flower has its own name and is lit from the inside for nighttime viewing. The New York-based creative studio, Playlab, Inc., that give rise to the installation is also the mastermind behind the +POOL, the world’s first water filtering floating pool in New York.
Next, check out our arts and culture column for the latest installations and exhibits.