Brooklyn Lightscape public art
Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Photo by Liz Ligon

With the year soon coming to an end, now is the time to enjoy the last public art installations debuting in 2022. Public art installations this December vary in topic from climate change to the passage of time, with many focusing specifically on the holiday season. To get into the spirit of the holidays be sure to check out the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s festive Lightscape and the Museum of the City of New York’s gingerbread display. Here are the best public art installations to see in December 2022.

1. A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe, Grand Central Madison

Yaoyoi Kusama's mosac at Grand Central Madison
Yayoi Kusama A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe, 2022 Glass mosaic 120.66 x 7.25 feet Fabricated by Miotto Mosaics Art Studios Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design Photo by Kerry McFate ©YAYOI KUSAMA Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, David Zwirner

Internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama’s glass mosaic piece will bring a shock of color to the Grand Central Madison, the new LIRR concourse in Grand Central Terminal set to open this month. The new public art piece will be located between 46th and 47th Streets. Titled A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe (2022), the vibrant work measures 120 feet wide by 7 feet tall, for a total coverage area of approximately 875 square feet. “This new, flowing composition, originating from her extensive body of My Eternal Soul paintings spills energy and joy out into the Grand Central Madison passageway. The mural is a journey itself, inspiring incredible moments as you walk along the grand mosaic artwork,” explained Sandra Bloodworth, Director, MTA Arts & Design.

The mosaic features abstract and figurative images that look like faces, the sun, or even microscopic cells. They are meant to evoke the themes of Love, universe, and peace for all mankind, a message central to Kusama’s work. A poem written by Kusama accompanies the mosaic, which was fabricated by Miotto Mosaics Art Studios.

2. Your Voices at Lincoln Center

Your Voices at Lincoln Center

A giant kinetic sculpture has taken over the Josie Robertson Plaza in front of Lincoln Center. Your Voices, commissioned by Moët & Chandon, is made up of 700 glowing cords representing the 700 languages currently spoken in New York City. The cords stretch over a series of arcs that wrap visitors in an illuminated network. The entire piece rotates, changing the visitor’s perspective as the scene shifts before them.

As the piece moves, a soundscape composed of different languages fills the air. Stepping inside, visitors will hear EM Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End spoken in different languages from Algerian Arabic and Alsation to Zapotec, Zarma, and Zulu. The narration is set to music composed by the contemporary composer, Polyphonia. The work has been made in association with the Endangered Language Alliance. Their interactive map details every language and the location of its speakers within the city. The installation will be on view through December 18th and chorus performances will happen on select dates.

3. Eyes on Iran, Four Freedoms Park

JR art for Eyes on Iran at Four Freedoms Park
Baraye Nika Shakarami for #EyesonIran, an interactive installation at Four Freedoms Park by JR took place on December 4, 2022 [cotton canvas; over 300 participants]. Image Credit: JR

Eyes on Iran is a site-specific installation made up of artwork from various artists that has taken over Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. The compelling series of works features famous international artists such as JR – who activated a portrait of Iranian protester Nika Shakarami over the weekend with hundreds of volunteers – as well as many Iranian artists including Sheida Soleimani, Aphrodite Désirée Navab, Z, Icy and Sot, Shirin Neshat, Sepideh Mehraban, and Shirin Towfiq,

All of the pieces are tied together with the theme of collective sight. The series is meant to call attention to the upcoming vote at the United Nations that will decide if the Islamic Republic of Iran’s membership should be revoked from the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women. The vote takes place on December 14th. The installations will be on view through January 1st.

4. Kiki Smith Public Art at Grand Central Madison

Kiki Smith Mural at Grand Central Madison
The Presence (2022) © Kiki Smith, Grand Central Madison. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Anthony Verde.

Acclaimed artist Kiki Smith’s work will be spread throughout the new Grand Central Madison concourse in various locations. The pieces are titled River Light, The Water’s Way, The Presence, The Spring, and The Sound (2022). Smith’s artwork brings a little bit of the outdoors into the underground terminal space. Like much of her work since the 1980s, these mosaics, which appear throughout two levels of the corridor, draw inspiration from a number of sources “spanning scientific anatomical renderings from the eighteenth century to the abject imagery of relics, memento mori, folklore, mythology, Byzantine iconography, and medieval altarpieces.”

River Light is the first piece that greets you as you enter Madison Concourse from the historic Grand Central Terminal. This specific piece was “inspired by the way sunlight glints on the surface of the East River, the threshold between Manhattan and Long Island.” On the Mezzanine level of Grand Central Madison, four more mosaics by Smith bring the outdoors in. Natural stones are incorporated into the artwork at 45th Street, The Water’s Way, which is based on a collage by the artist. At 46th Street, a lone deer stands among gold foil reeds and under a spattering of Smith’s iconic blue stars in The Presence. In The Spring at 47th Street, the native wild turkeys of Long Island are pictured in a lush forest. Finally, The Sound at 48th Street, the northernmost and longest mosaic, shows a portal to Long Island’s famous waterway. In total, Smith’s mosaics cover 1,400 square feet and were fabricated by Mayer of Munich, a partner of Smith’s for 25 years.

5. Meatpacking District Holiday Light Public Art Display

Snow people public art installation
Image Courtesy of Brake Through Media

This holiday season, the Meatpacking Business Improvement District’s holiday light display will return to the neighborhood along Ninth Avenue between 14th Street and Gansevoort Street with new engaging material perfect for getting into the holiday spirit. Included in this year’s display is a festive installation of lights, seasonal planters, and larger-than-life snow people, which return after the social media fame they garnered last winter. For their current iteration, the snow people have been outfitted with customized accessories reflecting the Meatpacking District’s status as a top destination for luxury and innovative designs. 

As a new addition, along Ninth Avenue, there are two illuminated geometric frames for taking holiday card-worthy photos. At Gansevoort Plaza, visitors are greeted with neon lights in abstract shapes and a colonnade draped in freeform neon lights bouncing shapes off a mirrored tunnel. The Meatpacking District’s holiday light display can be visited beginning on December 8th and will remain up through mid-January. 

6. Wreath Interpretations at Central Park Arsenal

  • Wreath Interpretation public art exhibit
  • Wreath Interpretation public art exhibit
  • Wreath Interpretation public art exhibit

This year marks the 40th anniversary of NYC Parks’ annual Wreath Interpretations exhibition. The exhibition returns to Central Park’s Arsenal Gallery with nearly 40 handcrafted wreaths made of “inventive and unexpected” materials, everything from caution tape, traffic light reflectors, and safety pins, to bath sponges, rulers, Mardi Gras beads, and sugar meringue!

Curated by Elizabeth Masella, Senior Public Art Coordinator for NYC Parks, the selection of wreaths explore a wide range of themes, such as family history, volunteerism, endangered animals, and chemistry. Each wreath is accompanied by a short artist statement that describes its meaning. Wreath Interpretations is on display now through December 30, 2022, at the Arsenal Gallery on the third floor of NYC Parks’ Headquarters in Central Park, at Fifth Avenue at 64th Street. It is free and open to the public Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., except holidays.

7. Between the Future at Newark Liberty International Airport

Between the Future public art installation at Newark Liberty International Airport
View of Artist Layqa Nuna’s mural ‘Between the Future Past’ at Newark International Airport. Courtesy of Christine Zheng.

Sweeping 350 feet of the arrival hall and concourse level of Newark Liberty International Airport is Layqa Nuna Yawar’s vibrant mural, Between the Future. Created in celebration of the diverse voices and cultures present within Newark NJ, and the larger New York City Metropolitan Area, the mural explores the area’s history and community with an emphasis on how the past can be embraced in order to make way for a brighter future. Nature forms a central component of the installation, featuring native flora and fauna such as roses and violets (the NY and NJ state flowers), the bog turtle (NJ state reptile), and white Egrets (native to the area’s marshland).

Throughout the mural’s production process, Yawar drew upon his indigenous heritage and Kichwa language. He also interviewed and took portraits of Port Authority airport workers and local community members including Dr. Hilda Hidalgo and Mathyias “Laughing Wolf” Ellis. Between the Future depicts a wide range of individuals across time, culture, race, and gender paying specific attention to narratives of perseverance through oppression. In his mural, Yawar challenges viewers to consider which groups of individuals receive recognition in mainstream media, arguing that everyone is remarkable in their own unique way. The mural is presented by the Public Art Fund and will be on permanent display in the airport’s Terminal A. 

8. Approach at Newark Liberty International Airport

Approach public art installation at Newark Liberty International Airport
View of artist Karyn Olivier’s sculpture ‘Approach’ at Newark International Airport. Courtesy of Christine Zheng.

Traversing all three of Newark Liberty International Airport’s accessible terminals is Approach, an installation of two sculptures suspended 50 feet in the air. Approach merges history and collective memory with present-day narratives, capturing the spirit of flight and New Jersey’s rich topography. While creating Approach, artist Karyn Oliver captured photographs of Newark and the surrounding area to depict New Jersey’s skyline, infrastructure, and natural landscape.

The installation consists of slices of land and sky suspended in two helix-like structures; one depicting daytime and the other night. Double-sided, each ring presents two distinct views, one when looking up toward the ceiling and the other looking down at the installation from above. Approaching the sculptures causes the rings to align concentrically, revealing the rich topographical mosaic within. The effect produced mirrors the experience of traveling between time zones. The sculptures are presented by the Public Art Fund and will be on permanent display in the airport. 

9. Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Courtesy of Elizabeth Reina-Longoria.

Through January 8, 2023, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (BBG) will host Lightscape, an after-dark illuminated spectacle celebrating the beauty of winter. The exhibition features a festive one-mile trail of art created by local and international artists. The path of lights winds through the garden’s 52-acre landscape. Seventeen glowing works of art will bathe visitors in dramatic sprays of colors and patterns. While traversing the trail, visitors will also listen to a curated soundtrack representing the diversity of Brooklyn’s winter cultural traditions. 

One standout display is Mandylights Winter Cathedral, an 80-foot tunnel adorned with thousands of LED light globes in the shape of a traditional gothic arch. Scattered throughout the Garden’s Bluebell Wood is Studio Vertigo’s, The Ghosts, a series of LED illuminated origami cranes made from folded recycled polypropylene. Another installation includes Ashley Bertling’s Fire Garden, which utilizes bespoke structures to fill the Rose Arc with real fire from hand-poured candles. 

10. Still Life at Grand Central Madison

Still Life at Grand Central Madison, a new public art installation
Paul Pfeiffer, detail from Still Life, presented by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Arts & Design, © 2022 Paul
Pfeiffer, curated by the International Center of Photography, New York, NY December 2022 – May 2023. Courtesy of Anna Selle.

In partnership with MTA Arts & Design, the International Center of Photography (ICP) will present Still Life by Paul Pfeiffer in the cultural corridor of Grand Central Madison, a new 700,000 square-foot Long Island Railroad terminal below Grand Central set to open in December 2022. Still Life pays homage to New York street performer “Da Gold Man” who has appeared as a gold living statue standing motionless on a milk crate in Times Square for more than 17 years. 

The new public art piece features 10 large-scale photographs of Da Gold Man, measuring 75 inches tall and 100 inches wide. The photographs are printed on backlit film and displayed in five custom-made double-sided light boxes. Removing Da Gold Man from his regular environment in Times Square, Still Life challenges its viewers to consider the language of advertising present in Midtown Manhattan and the everyday movements of New Yorkers moving through the city’s public transportation system. Still Life is the first in a rotating public art exhibit that will be featured in the new Grand Central Madison.

11. Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off at the Museum of the City of New York

Gingerbread exhibit at MCNY

For fans of gingerbread cookies, the Museum of the City of New York‘s new exhibition Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off is perfect for getting into the holiday spirit. Seven gingerbread houses are featured in the exhibition, each made to represent one of New York City’s five boroughs in gingerbread form. Participants include Bruno’s Bakery in Staten Island, Egidio Pastry Shop in the Bronx, L’Appartement 4F in Brooklyn, and Sans Bakery in Queens with the amateur bakers being Sherry Kozlowski, a resident of Queens, Ida Kreutzer, from Brooklyn, and John Keunth, based in Manhattan. 

Requirements for the competitors included following size limitations, curating a winter-themed design that also represented their neighborhoods or boroughs, and making everything above the base completely edible. Selected judges represented some of the most senior members of New York City’s baking community: Bobbie Lloyd, Magnolia Bakery’s CEO, Colette Peters, owner of Colette’s Cakes, and many others. Various prizes were awarded ranging from “Best Borough” to “Devil’s In the Details” and “Most Resilient.” The best overall prize went to Kozlowski’s display of shops in Astoria, Queens. Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off will be open through January 8, 2023.

12. Shadows at Bella Abzug Park

Shadows public art installation at Stella Azbug Park
Shadows at Bella Abzug Park. Courtesy of Gabby Jones.

Shadows is a colorful series of sculptures depicting the silhouettes of ten workers who maintain Bella Abzug Park and ensure it can be enjoyed to the fullest by the public. Each sculpture possesses a unique pose, chosen by the subjects themselves to best reflect their personalities. After capturing the poses on film, artist Fanny Allié drew their outlines and translated them into steel frames. In addition, the colors of the sculptures were also chosen by the workers. 

Accompanying the sculptures is an audio component that features Aillé’s subjects singing, whistling, humming, laughing, and sharing stories about their work. Presented by the Hudson Yards Hells Kitchen Alliance, Shadows will be on display through October 5, 2023. 

One standout display is Mandylights Winter Cathedral, an 80-foot tunnel adorned with thousands of LED light globes in the shape of a traditional gothic arch. Scattered throughout the Garden’s Bluebell Wood is Studio Vertigo’s, The Ghosts, a series of LED illuminated origami cranes made from folded recycled polypropylene. Another installation includes Ashley Bertling’s Fire Garden, which utilizes bespoke structures to fill the Rose Arc with real fire from hand-poured candles. 

13. Reify at the Staten Island Supreme Courthouse

Reify public art at Staten Island Supreme Court
Image Courtesy of NYCDDC

Five banners measuring 20 feet high by 6 feet will hang between the pillars of the Staten Island Courthouse as part of a new public art installation. Reify was created by DDC Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) Melanie Crean. In addition to the banners, a 50-foot long by 7.5-foot high supergraphic print is placed on the construction fence in front of the courthouse, which is currently under renovation. The installation will only be on display through December 10th.

To create these pieces, Crean conducted a series of workshops with local young people. They were asked to where to describe their relationships with the justice system. The images featured “echo people forging connections with each other across multiple divides.”

14. Times Square Midnight Moment

Midnight Moment still from First Snow
Celia Rowlson-Hall: First Snow (2022) for December Midnight Moment. Video still courtesy of the artist.

Midnight Moment is the world’s largest, longest-running digital art exhibition, continues this December with First Snow by director-choreographer Celia Rowlson-Hall. Rowlson-Hall’s video is the first in a celebratory series that will feature all women and femme-expansive artists through March 2023 for Midnight Moment’s 10-year anniversary.

Hall’s video features an ensemble of dancers swirling in cascading snow. The footage will appear synchronized on over 90 electronic billboards throughout Times Square. The show airs nightly from 11:57pm to midnight. Times Square Arts will host a live performance by the Grammy Award-winning ensemble Attacca Quartet on Tuesday, December 6 from 11:30pm-12:00am in celebration of Rowlson-Hall’s Midnight Moment.

15. For centuries, and still(anticipated completion) at Harlem Art Park

 Images courtesy oft he artists. Photos by Ariana Sarwari

Kevin Quiles Bonilla and Zaq Landsberg’s For centuries, and still…(anticipated completion) at Harlem Art Park reflects on the past five years since Hurricane Maria. The installation ties together attributes of the colonial Puerto Rican landscape and the ubiquitous New York City construction. It features a 13-foot-tall dark green recreation of a guard tower (or garita, in Spanish) from the iconic colonial fortresses of Old San Juan. The tilted tower is made of New York City construction fencing material, complete with a “Post No Bills” stencil.

By melding different visual cues and physical materials, the artwork melds the history of the two locations and explores contemporary notions of colonialism “as a precarious, never-ending project that affects anyone within it.” Mixing construction with the idea of colonialism, it begs the question “What happens when the ‘anticipated completion’ never arrives?” Activities and participation from other Puerto Rican artists will take place throughout the duration of the exhibit. For centuries, and still…(anticipated completion) will be on view through November 2023.

16. New in Town at Thomas Greene Playground

New in Town public art mural at Thomas Greene Playground
New in Town in Boerum Hill neighborhood. Courtesy of Dan Peterson.

Located inside Thomas Greene Playground in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn is Dan Peterson’s 57-foot mural, New in Town. Named in honor of the visual artist’s recent move to Brooklyn, New in Town features a collection of abstract shapes vibrantly painted to convey the fun, colorful, and dynamic atmosphere of Brooklyn. New in Town will be on display through November 6, 2023.

Next, check out the A Sneak Peek of Art Inside Grand Central Madison