Old Tree public art sculpture on the High Line
Image Courtesy of the High Line

A clock powered by the East River, larger-than-life swimmer sculptures, and historic images of Brooklyn’s oldest theater are just a few of the elements you’ll discover in the exciting new public art installations on view this month. Throughout the month of May, monumental works are set to debut from artists who are well-known in New York City and those who are premiering their first large-scale works here. Below, check out all of the new art there is to see:

1. Lit by Nick Cave & Bob Faust at National Sawdust

Lit mural by Nick Cave
Photo by Jill Steinberg

A new mural by Nick Cave and Bob Faust now covers an exterior wall of National Sawdust, a Brooklyn performance space. The mural was inspired by an excerpt from the C. P. Cavafy poem “Hidden Things”  and unveiled at a festival dedicated to the poet’s memory called Archive of Desire. The mural incorporates Cavafy’s words, an image of a Nick Cave sound suit, and the facade of National Sawdust itself. You can also see depictions of Cave’s sound suits inside the 42nd Street subway station.

Cave’s sound suits were originally developed to “create a camouflage for the wearer’s shape, constructing a second skin that hides gender, race, and class, and compelling the audience to observe without judgment, operating less as an armor and more as a key to unlock one’s own full expression.” Faust and Cave worked together to select a sound suit from 2003 to use in the mural. The mural is now a permanent part of the National Sawdust facade.

2. Old Tree at the High Line Plinth

Old Tree public art sculpture on the High Line
Image Courtesy of the High Line

A 25-foot tall bare, blazing red and pink tree will sprout from the High Line this May. Opening on May 8th, Old Tree is the third Plinth sculpture to grace The Spur section of the elevated park. The new sculpture by Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz overlooks 10th Avenue and West 30th Street.

The vibrant structure resembles the branching systems of the human body like blood vessels, “inviting viewers to consider the indivisible connection between our own lives and the plants around us.” The bright color strikingly contrasts the surrounding blue, brown, and gray buildings of the streetscape.

3. See Idylls, Park Avenue in Murray Hill

Close up swimmer sculpture
Photo by Richie-Nuzz

Hyper-realistic sculptures of swimmers by artist Carole A. Feuerman are making a splash in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood. Along Park Avenue from 34th Street to 38th Street, you can spot 9 of her larger-than-life works on display throughout this spring and summer. Feuerman is one of the few artists who create outdoor sculptures that appear so real you half expect them to move! The figures along Park Avenue are depicted in various leisurely summer poses, resting on beach balls and inner tubes or diving into an unseen pool.

The sculpture series is presented in conjunction with a gallery exhibition at the Galeries Bartoux on Central Park South. The exhibition, called Sea Idylls, will feature a reconstruction of Feuerman’s studio, her first sculpture, and a selection of exclusive artworks.

4. Nicholas Galanin: In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Land sculpture by Nicholas Galanin at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Nicholas Galanin, In-Porcces Image of In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra, 2023 at 4th State Metals, NY, Corten steel, Courtesy of the artist and Peter Blum Gallery. Photo by Asya Gorovits, courtesy Public Art Fund

In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra is a monumental, 30-foot tall corten steel sculpture by multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin. Now on view in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the piece is Galanin’s first public artwork in New York City. The towering sculpture spells out the word “LAND” using materials that are identical to those that make up the US/Mexico border wall. The word is presented in the style of Robert Indiana’s 1966 sculpture, LOVE

The piece comments on the legacy of colonization, its impact on migration, and our relationships with Land across generations, cultures, and communities. Inspired by his own Indigenous heritage and the style of Pop Art, Galanin’s work serves as a call to action to reflect on our impact on the lands we travel. Presented by the Public Art Fund, the sculpture will be on view from May 16 through November 12, 2023, in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

5. Yayoi Kusama’s I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers

  • Yayoi Kusama exhibit at David Zwirner Gallery
  • Yayoi Kusama infinity room at David Zwirner Gallery
  • Yayoi Kusama exhibit at David Zwirner Gallery

Renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama unveiled one of her largest gallery exhibitions to date at David Zwirner Galleries in Manhattan this month. The exhibition, titled I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers, features new monumental sculptures and over thirty new paintings spread throughout three gallery spaces on West 19th Street in Manhattan. The show marks 10 years since Kusama’s debut at David Zwirner and the return of one of her most popular pieces, an infinity mirror room.

All of the works on display incorporate Kusama’s signature visual elements of bright colors, repetitive patterns, and polka dots. These aesthetic elements represent Kusama’s fascination with the natural world, on a micro and macro level, from the cells of plants to the heavenly bodies of the universe. I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers is free and open to the public from May 11th at 6pm ET until July 21st. Previous Kusama exhibits have had wait times of thirty minutes to over two hours, so plan accordingly!

6. Alpine: Under the Marquee at Alpine Cinema in Brooklyn

Alpine: Under the Marquee public art installation

Alpine Cinema has been a fixture of the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn since it first opened in 1921. For over a hundred years the movie theater has endured and is now the oldest independently owned movie theater in the borough. Many other theaters that once lined the streets have been lost to time. Alpine: Under the Marquee is a neighborhood-inspired mural project created to celebrate the history of the Alpine Cinema and accentuate the iconic marquee.

Created by Untapped New York’s Artist in Residence Aaron Asis, the installation is meant to recontextualize our perception of the past, help us to appreciate the present, and inspire a sustainable vision for the future. Alpine: Under the Marquee is part of Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens — a Bay Ridge public art exhibition featuring artists from the New York area — hosted by Stand4 Gallery in collaboration with Ecoartspace.

7. Fifth Avenue Blooms

  • Fifth Ave Blooms public art
  • Fifth Avenue Blooms public art installation
  • Fifth Ave Blooms public art
  • Fifth Ave Blooms

The ornate floral illustrations of French illustrator Charlotte Gastaut will bring a pop of color to Fifth Avenue this month. Gastaut’s illustrations are featured in ten colorful sculptures along the famous thoroughfare. Complimented by live flowers, the installations span from 50th to 59th street.

The streets of New York City will transform into an enchanted garden with the addition of brightly colored arches, benches and other live potted flowers in this installation. As you pass by or take a moment to sit, you’ll be immersed in a world of wildflowers, birds, and butterflies. The installations will be accompanied by a series of public programming that features live performances and children’s activities on weekends throughout May.

8.  Sunroom Project Space Season at Wave Hill

Jae Hi Ahn
The Condolence Message, 2023  public art
Jae Hi Ahn The Condolence Message, 2023 (detail) Microcentrifuge tubes, wire, glue, wood, watercolor on paper, paper cutout, stoneware clay, porcelain clay, glaze Dimensions variable Photo: Stefan Hagen. Courtesy of Wave Hill.

Every year, Wave Hill’s Sunroom Project Space exhibits the work of six artists in the garden’s Sunroom and Sun Porch spaces at Glyndor Gallery. After having their applications reviewed by a panel of art professionals, the following artists were chosen to exhibit their work: Jae Hi Ahn, Jill Cohen-Nuñez, Bel Falleiros, Jacq Groves, Max Sarmiento and Grace Troxell. The installations will be onn view from May through October. The first installation to go up is Jae Hi Ahn’s The Condolence Message.

The sculptural work is “based in part on a sympathy letter that a 16th-century ancestor wrote to his late wife—who passed due to postpartum-related complications—and on a condolence-message project that circulated during the Covid-19 pandemic.” The porcelain teacups and plates placed on the floor are inspired by Baekja Myeonggi, ceramics found inside the coffin of Mrs. Kwak, the late wife of Ahn’s ancestor Minhak Ahn. In the Korean memorial service Jesa, ancestors are honored on the day of their death with offerings of rice, dried fish, and fruit. The spindly purple sculpture is made up of plastic microcentrifuge tubes, a tool typically used for processing biological samples. The final element of the installation consists of fantastical watercolors of flowers found in Wave Hill’s gardens. These images are loosely based on letters of the Korean alphabet and incorporate images of traditional Korean accessories, tying Korean traditions to the Bronx site.

9. Mary Mattingly, Ebb of a Spring Tide, Socrates Sculpture Park

Mary Mattingly Ebb of Spring public art rendering
Mary Mattingly, Concept for Ebb of a Spring Tide, Socrates Sculpture Park, 2023. Image courtesy of the Artist.

Ebb of a Spring Tide will be the first exhibition of New York-based artist Mary Mattingly’s work at Socrates Sculpture Park. Debuting on Saturday, May 20, the work features a 65-foot living sculpture titled Water Clock. Fabricated on-site, the piece is a response to the Park’s unique waterfront location along the East River. The pulse of the clock is controlled by the movement of water from the East River through tubes on the structure.

The public art exhibition will also include a Flock House, which will act as a growing, making, and eventual living space to fit the evolving needs of the project. This piece expands on the artist’s ongoing series of mobile, self-sufficient living systems that challenge notions of home and community. It will be on view through September 9, 2023.

10. Spring Exhibitions on the High Line

Public art installation on the High Line
Baseera Khan, Painful Arc II (Shoulder-High) (rendering). Courtesy of the artist and High Line Art.

This Spring, the High Line will host three new public art installations. In April, Yu Ji’s Column-Untitled No.3, 2023 was unveiled. This piece, located at 20th Street, is made of “two twisting columns whose design reflects magnified images of the Equisetum—an over 100 million-year-old family of ferns—growing in the park.” Ji was inspired by the images of early 20th-century photographer Karl Blossfeldt, who shot detailed black-and-white photographs of plants. Ji also references architectural botanical ornamentation by early 19th-century German theologian Moritz Meurer.

Debuting this may is Gabriel Chail‘s the wind blows where it wishes. For the High Line, the Portuguese artist created a large adobe sculpture that will stand at 24th Street. Chail pulled inspiration from sources like Leonardo da Vinci’s nature drawings, Biblical passages about the wind, representations of natural phenomena in art history, and his own observations of pre-Columbian archeological ceramics from northwest Argentina. Like JI’s sculpture which interacts with the park’s plants, this structure will be impacted by the natural forces of the High Line. It will be on view through April 2024.

11. …things come to thrive…in the shedding…in the molting… at NYBG

NYBG Spring and Summer exhibition
Ebony G. Patterson …in the waiting..in the weighting…,2021 hand-cut jacquard woven photo tapestry with glitter appliques, pins, brooches, embellishments, fabric, tassels, acrylic beads, 7 hand-embellished resin-baed vultures on artist-designed vinyl wallpaper, Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

The New York Botanical Garden’s spring and summer exhibition will include sculptural and horticultural installations by visual artist Ebony G. Patterson. On view from May 27 through September 17, 2023, Patterson’s work is titled …things come to thrive…in the shedding…in the molting… Patterson will bring her signature style of lavishly detailed mixed-media installations to the garden’s historic spaces.

Her work will include a monumental peacock sculpture and swarms of glitter-encrusted vultures along with other pieces inspired by the exotic flora of the gardens. The installation, while being visually stimulating, will also explore topics of race, gender, and colonialism while inviting visitors to contemplate their own relationships with gardens and the natural world. You can purchase tickets to see this installation here.

12. Lauren Halsey Installation at the Met Rooftop

Lauren Halsey Met rooftop public art 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo by Hyla Skopitz

L.A.-based artist Lauren Halsey has brought a bit of the West Coast to New York City with her new installation at the Met Museum’s rooftop garden exhibit. Drawing inspiration from her own life and the museum’s collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts and architecture, she explores how people make public places their own.

This piece of public art is made up of a 22-foot-high cube constructed of 750 glass fiber-reinforced concrete tiles. The temple-like cube is guarded by two sphinxes and surrounded by four towering columns. The faces on the two sphinxes are those of the artist’s mother and brother. The walls of the cube and the columns are covered in words and images from the proverbial “Book of Everyday Life,” inspired by the Egyptian “Book of the Dead.” See more images and learn more here!

13. Kneeler by Joy Brown in the Garment District

Kneeler by Joy Brown, a public art installation in the Garment District
Photo by Alexandre Ayer / @DiversityPics for the Garment District Alliance.

A friendly 6-foot tall figure can now be found kneeling in the heart of the Garment District on Broadway between 39th and 40th Streets. Called Kneeler, the large bronze figure by artist Joy Brown invites people to touch, play, or even sit on it. Brown’s signature style of bronze sculptures is inspired by a Japanese aesthetic.

The Kneeler’s presence is meant to evoke “a universal spirit of harmony and optimism that transcends culture, gender, and age.” The sculpture will be on view through August 31st as part of Garment District Art on the Plazas, a year-round public art program.

14. You Are Not Alone Murals at the South Street Seaport

  • You Are Not Alone public art Murals
  • You Are Not Alone public art  Murals
  • You Are Not Alone public art  Murals
  • You Are Not Alone public art  Murals
  • You Are Not Alone public art Murals
  • You Are Not Alone public art Murals
  • You Are Not Alone public art Murals
  • You Are Not Alone public art Murals

You Are Not Alone Murals is a homegrown NYC nonprofit that aims to destigmatize mental illness and offer a message of hope to the community. The worldwide public art project’s most recent endeavor is a series of 10 murals painted along 160 feet of riverfront at the South Street Seaport.

All of the murals are painted in the project’s signature colors of black, grey, white, and yellow, but they are all unique in their images and font styles. Six of the murals are in English and four are in other languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Chinese). The artists featured include Alana Flowers, Adam Fu, Indie184, Jason Naylor, Cris Pagnoncelli, Sally Rumble, Marco Santini, Rich Tu, Lynne Yun, Zipeng Zhu. The addition of these murals brings the total worldwide count of “You Are Not Alone” murals to more than 160!

15. ArtBridge Murals

This month marks the completion of fifty art installations that are part of the public art exhibition City Artists Corps: Bridging the Divide. Presented by ArtBridge, in partnership with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the year-long project spans all five boroughs and highlights the stories, cultures, talents, and histories of New York City’s 400,000 public housing residents.

The first of the installations to be complete can be found at Manhattan’s Baruch Houses, while the final installations just went on view at the Taft Houses in Harlem. The art you’ll see was created by fifty different local artists who answered a city-wide call and were then evaluated by more than a dozen nonprofit organizations. The public murals created by the selected artists span nearly two miles of construction fencing and sidewalk sheds that surround sixteen individual NYCHA sites. Their designs are truly reflective of the communities in which they appear and are the result of hundreds of workshops, community events, and close collaboration with NYCHA residents. Most of the installations will remain on display through August 2023. Participating NYCHA developments include Baruch, Polo Grounds, Taft, and Lillian Wald in Manhattan; Brownsville, Howard, Ingersoll, Red Hook East, and Red Hook West in Brooklyn; Adams and Mitchel in the Bronx; Astoria, Pomonok, and Woodside in Queens; South Beach and Todt Hill on Staten Island.

16. YELL! at Herald Square

YELL! Immersive art installation at Herald Square
 Jeremy Amar Photography and Kelly Han Photography.

YELL!, an immersive, outdoor public art installation produced by Fountain House Gallery commemorates the 75th anniversary of the organization and recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month in May. The Gallery is a national mental health nonprofit “fighting to improve health, increase opportunity and end social and economic isolation for people most impacted by mental illness.” YELL! is a multimedia maze constructed of plywood and lumber modules. The walls of the maze are adorned with art by Fountain House Gallery members.

As visitors walk through the maze, they will be taken through a narrative of the artists’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Each module illustrates a different theme such as trauma, stigma, incarceration, and identity. The final module emphasizes community-based recovery options and is staffed by a trained peer specialist who is available to answer questions and provide visitors with resources. The journey through the maze is meant to represent a daunting journey through the mental health system, but also the strength and perseverance of Fountain House members.YELL! will be on view at Herald Square (at the intersection of 34th Street and Broadway) between May 18 through May 22. It will then travel to Governors Island this summer.

17. Scooter LaForge Pickleball Mural

Scooter LaForge Pickle ball mural

Artist Scoot LaForge has left his mark at the Wollman Rink’s new Pickleball courts (CityPickle) in Central Park. The East Village native and avid pickleball player works in various media, including painting, sculpture, and drawing. He employs unorthodox techniques to create striking iconic images. This mural, created for the new pickleball courts, shows iconic images of the New York City skyline set behind a pair of pickles playing on the court! LaForge’s work has been shown at Howl Happening New York, Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York, the Friedrichshof Museum in Vienna, and the Spritmuseum/Absolut Art Collection in Sweden.

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