Winter is right around the corner, but don’t let the cold New York weather stop you from seeing some of December’s best art installations! Here are this month’s most exciting art installations and attractions to end 2023.
1. Field of Light at Freedom Plaza
The East Side of Manhattan is about to get a glow-up. Internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro will unveil a new Field of Light installation at Freedom Plaza, between 38th to 41st Street east of First Avenue in Manhattan, on December 15th. The installation, which spans more than six acres, will feature “17,000 lowlight, fiber-optic stemmed spheres that will illuminate with a slow subtle change of hue.” Guests are invited to fully immerse themselves in the lights as they walk a winding path along the East River waterfront. Made possible by The Soloviev Foundation, this installation is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. The show is currently sold out through February, but March tickets will be released on February 1st, here.
2. Art in Focus at Rockefeller Center
Artist Debbie Lawson makes her mark on New York City as the first UK-based artist to be featured at Rockefeller Center with her Art in Focus exhibit. Located at the Rink Level of 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Lawson has filled the concourse with a mural mosaic of carpet imagery combined with wild animals like boars, deer, and tigers. Viewers will see wild animal imagery camouflaged in carpet patterns while wandering through the space. Lawson was heavily inspired by the architecture of the Art Deco complex, especially the gilded lions at the 50th Street entrance. She created three royal lions that creep around carpets, featured in the vitrine spaces. Her installation blurs the lines between two and three dimensions, as well as between the natural and built world. Lawson’s work will be on view through January 9th, 2024.
3. Control No Control in the Flatrion District
A new large-scale interactive installation is coming to the Flatiron North Plaza as part of a three-week series of interactive pop-up installations called Winter Glow. This giant LED cube reacts to everything that touches it. Sounds and patterns emerge as up to 48 people at a time interact with the cube. The piece explores the relationship between guests and interactive installations. After being presented many times across the world, the piece revealed that people across every continent tend to behave the same way when interacting with the cube. Control No Control will be on display through January 1st, 2024.
4. Cracked Ice in the Garment District
Renowned artist Del Geist unveiled his series, Cracked Ice, just in time for the winter season. The series comprises three structures made of stainless steel and stone. The stones stand in for erratic boulders held up by giant glaciers. Each structure is between 10 and 18 feet tall and represents the inevitable melting of ice over time. The installation invites guests to reflect on the effects that may come from climate change and the forces of nature around us. Catch this powerful installation through March 2024 on the Broadway plazas in the Garment District between 39th and 40th streets.
5. NYBG Holiday Train Show
The New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show is a beloved annual tradition for the holiday season in NYC! On view through January 15th, the show features recreations of famous New York City sights, from the Statue of Liberty to Yankee Stadium. There are more than 200 buildings in all! Each is meticulously crafted by Laura Busse Dolan and the creative team at Applied Imagination, the family-run company that has been creating the train show scenes since 1992. This year, the show will feature a brand-new outdoor train display. Grab your tickets here!
6. Singing Suns at Moynihan Train Hall
The transit system of New York often houses some of the most beautiful art in the city. The growing Art at Amtrak program is opening a new large-scale video animation titled Singing Suns at the Moynihan Train Hall Metropolitan Lounge. It is a video animation created from gorgeous ink drawings by the artist, Shazia Sikander. She says, “The iconography was born from separating the silhouette of the head from the body of female characters called gopis, who are often painted as devotees of the singular male god Krishna in South Asian historical manuscript paintings.” To Sikander, disruption becomes a means of exploration in this piece.
7. Wreath Interpretations
Since 1982, NYC Parks has invited artists and creative New York City residents to craft their interpretation of a holiday wreath. On display at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, you can see more than “30 imaginative, whimsical wreaths handcrafted by Parks employees, artists, designers, and creative individuals of all ages.” The creators didn’t use garland or ribbon, but more unconventional items like thumbtacks, dryer lint, a tire, steel scouring pads, plastic eyes, and candy wrappers. You can visit the exhibit on the 3rd Floor of the Arsenal every weekday until January 4th (it will be closed on December 25th and January 1st.)
Untapped Central Park Walking Tour
8. Lost Boys Mural at Prospect Park
A new art installation comes to Brooklyn at the Lena Horne Bandshell in Prospect Park. Conceptual photographer Kevin Claiborne created a mural featuring phrases like “Where can Blackness reach” and “Where is Black enough,” superimposed upon the repeating face of an unidentified Black youth from Harlem in the early 1900s. The mural offers viewers critical self-reflection and an examination of the Black experience. Titled Lost Boys, it is presented by BRIC and Prospect Park Alliance, in partnership with NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program. Guests are encouraged to dive deeper into the origins and embodiment of Blackness with this mural, on view through April 24th, 2023.
9. FORMALITIES at Materials for the Arts
Materials for the Arts (MFTA) is NYC’s largest art supply reuse center. Located in Queens, MFTA provides supplies free of charge to nonprofits with arts programming, public schools, and City agencies. MFTA’s current artist-in-residence is Machine Dazzle, “a self-described artist trapped in the role of costume designer,” who creates colorful and whimsical sculpture works and costumes out of everyday objects. To create his first solo sculptural exhibit, FORMALITIES, Dazzle had access to MFTA’s 35,000-square-foot warehouse full of anything he might have needed, from buttons and fabric to kitschy knick-knacks.
In FORMALITIES Dazzle takes commonplace items and transforms them into art. With creative flare, he has turned Christmas ornaments, vintage jewelry boxes, and various pieces of homeware into scenic landscapes, crafting lifelike figures out of inanimate items. FORMALITIES is free and open to the public through Friday, January 12, 2024, at the MFTA Gallery, open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.
10. Healing in Community at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler
NYC Health + Hospital’s art collection has grown by one more mural this month with the unveiling of Rachel Fawn Alban’s Healing in Community photo mural inside NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler on Roosevelt Island. The mural came together over a series of photography workshops with community members, staff, and patients and visits Alban made to the facility. The final piece, which contains portraits of 34 members of the Coler community, is a tribute to each subject’s contributions to that community. A total of nine new murals have been created this year as part of NYCHH’s Community Mural Project. The original 26 murals that were part of the project can be seen in a new book, Healing Walls: New York City Health + Hospitals Community Mural Project 2019-2021.
11. Art Above the Mantel on Nassau Street
This winter, Art on the Ave NYC partners with the Alliance for Downtown New York for Art Above the Mantel. This program features holiday installations and events housed in empty storefronts along the Nassau Street corridor in Lower Manhattan. Every space features one unifying theme, a fireplace mantel crafted in the style of the unique style of each artist. A mantel symbolizes warmth and is a comforting representation of the home-like feeling of the holidays. The displays will be on view through the end of December.
12. Holidays Windows on 5th Ave
Each holiday window display at the department stores of Fifth Avenue is a portal into a different festive world. At Macy’s, viewers can join the magical reindeer Tiptoe for an interactive adventure, at Sak’s, you can see intricately crafted miniature scenes of New York City’s famous sites, and at Bloomingdale’s, handcrafted and colorful glass art makes the world of Willy Wonka-sparkle. Check out more photos of the stunning window displays here and join us this month to see these displays for yourself on a Christmas in New York walking tour!
Christmas in New York Tour
13. Midnight Moment in Times Square
Every night throughout December, artist Lu Yang’s video, Doku: Digital Reincarnation, will take over the giant billboards of Times Square. The video starts at 11:57 pm and wraps up at midnight. Yang’s video was inspired by anime and gaming. It features uncannily lifelike avatars dressed in elaborate costumes. A team of scientists, 3D animators, and digital technicians worked together to capture Yang’s facial expressions and dance movements from a collection of dancers and musicians of various genders to create the androgynous animated figure in the video. The content ties together Yang’s interest in philosophy, religion, neuroscience, and technology.
14. Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden shines this season as Lightscape takes over the landscape. The glowing installation includes a trail lined with 18 different works of light art, four of which are new for 2023. As you traverse the garden, you’ll stroll under illuminated arches, admire the shine of a sparkling star, see floating lanterns set against the historic conservatory building, and more! Check out more details here.
15. The New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall
You can be part of the famous New Year’s Eve Ball drop at Times Square! This week, Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment unveiled the 2024 New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall. Everyone is invited to grab a piece of confetti and write down a wish for the new year. This confetti will then be dropped at midnight. Learn more about how the confetti is tossed from rooftops and windows, by hand, here! The Wishing Wall can be found on the Times Square’s Broadway plazas between 45th and 47th Streets. Drop off your wish every day (except December 25th) until December 29 from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Next, check out 7 Eye-Catching Holiday Window Displays