Wildlife and New York City have long had a precarious relationship, but even the celebrated presence of a Mandarin duck, beavers, monk parrots and more, should not be taken for granted. This summer an exhibit devoted entirely to the city’s bird species’ will find its home in Upper Manhattan. Stretching along Broadway from 64th to 157th streets, ten oversized bird sculptures will feature everything from a red-necked grebe with its chicks to a peregrine falcon. Constructed and designed by Brooklyn-based artist Nicolas Holiber, Nicolas Holiber: Birds on Broadway, the Audubon Sculpture Project aims to raise awareness of climate change and endangered species in New York and across the globe.
Every aspect of the installation has a deeper meaning and message. The birds themselves are all birds native to New York and in danger of going extinct according to the Birds and Climate Change Report published by the National Audubon Society in 2014. Their study predicted that over half the bird species in the United States will be adversely affected by the changing habitats brought on by climate change in the next couple of decades. The birds featured in the installation are only 10 of the 145 species specific to New York City that will be threatened by the shift in climate. Included on Broadway are the American bittern, brant, common goldeneye, double-crested cormorant, hooded merganser, peregrine falcon, red-necked grebe, scarlet tanager, snowy owl, and wood duck.
The materials and location of the installation also provide a deeper meaning. As with many of his works, Holiber used reclaimed wood to construct the sculptures, and although painted, they are not weather-proofed so that their wear and tear will show over time. This gradual disintegration is meant to convey the harm the changing weather patterns are having on America’s bird species. Not only the birds’ materials artistically relevant, but also their location on the green spaces of the Broadway malls is important to note. Stretching from 64th to 157th streets, their incorporation into New York City’s green spaces further highlights the fact that the city is a natural environment as much as it is an urban one and the importance of maintaining plants and animals amidst the streets of Manhattan.
The youngest artist to have a solo installation featured by the Broadway Mall Association, Nicolas Holiber is no stranger to presenting his work outside the walls of indoor exhibition spaces. His first large-scale piece in coordination with the city’s parks was Head of Goliath in 2015, but he also holds honors and awards such as a residency at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Process Space on Governors Island and a residency at the Leipzig International Art Programme in Germany. He specialises in work that combines painting, drawing, and sculpture, often constructing art using deconstructed materials.
Constructed in association with the NYC Audubon Society, an organization dedicated to preserving bird species in New York City, and Gitler &_____, a gallery dedicated to showcasing rising artists, the installation will capture the attention of both residents and visitors of the Upper West Side until January 2020.