Over the past few months, many new public art installations have been displayed throughout New York City to celebrate the strength and resiliency of the Empire State in the midst of the coronavirus. Such is the case with The Flag Project at Rockefeller Center, a new public art installation featuring 193 newly-designed flags. The unique flags feature art from renowned local artists and everyday people from around the country and bring a much-needed dose of color and liveliness to a pandemic-era Rockefeller Center.
The Flag Project was conceived this spring during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to celebrate community in the face of a great challenge. Organized by renowned real-estate company Tishman Speyer (whose holdings include New York City landmarks including Rockefeller Center and the Hearst Tower in midtown), the project invited New Yorkers to submit their own flag-designs to express their love for the city and celebrate its diverse culture, vibrant energy, and ceaseless strength.
While there are only 193 available flag poles to display winning designs, the open call for artwork received over a thousand submissions. The designs were as varied as they were creative. The project even received submissions from established New York artists, including Jeff Koons, Marina Abraamović, Christian Siriano, Sarah Sze, Steve Powers, KAWS, Laurie Anderson, Hank Willis Thomas, Carmen Herrera, Jenny Holzer, Shantell Martin, Sanford Biggers, and Faith Ringgold. All of the designs chosen for display were made into 8-foot by 5-foot flags and unveiled at Rockefeller Center during an opening ceremony on August 1.
For most of the year, the flags surrounding the iconic rink at Rockefeller Center represent the nations recognized by the United Nations. For special occasions, all of the flags are uniform, such as American Flags on the Fourth of July, rainbow flags during the annual Pride celebration, and silver and gold flags during the holiday season. The Flag Project is a break from this tradition, honoring what is itself an unprecedented moment in the city’s history.
“There are as many ways to celebrate the strength, vibrancy, and spirit of New York as there are people in our City,” said Rob Speyer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tishman Speyer. “We are thrilled that so many emerging and acclaimed artists are taking part in The Flag Project, and we are excited to share all the original works in one place, surrounding the beloved skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Since it was built almost 90 years ago, the Center has been a place to honor our city and reaffirm our longstanding commitment to public art. We can’t wait to share these magnificent expressions of love and support with all New Yorkers.”
The Flag Project is not the first measure taken at Rockefeller Center to honor the experience of New Yorkers during the pandemic. In April, a giant “New York Tough” sign was placed over the Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center. In June, the famous statues at Rockefeller Center were given giant masks to wear over their faces to celebrate the efforts of front line workers. Similar giants masks were also given to the two famous lion statues in front of the New York Public Library.
Next, check out 20 Public Art Installations Not to Miss in NYC August 2020