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Outdoor art in NYC for families in summer 2013 (slide show)

One of our favorite things about summer in the city is its outdoor art, which turns all of NYC into a museum; here are ten installations not to miss.

We're mega-fans of New York's museums, of course, from their constant stream of new exhibitions to shows that have become must-see icons for NYC kids. But we also relish the city's outdoor art, whose installations have the power to surprise, delight and elicit pondering in even the youngest of children. Best of all, they get you and your family out into the sunshine and fresh air and encourage you to explore city neighborhoods you might never otherwise visit. Here are ten outdoor art shows to pencil in on your calendar; the good news is that many are up through fall 2013 and a couple even in the winter. Happy installation hopping!

  • Photographer: Lesley Chang

    1. Head in the Clouds by StudioKCA.
    This year's City of Dreams Pavilion on Governors Island looks at first glance to be a fluffy cloud in the middle of a verdant lawn. On closer inspection you realize not only that it's made of recycled, gallon-size water bottles but also that you can enter it. A second layer of smaller water bottles filled with organic blue dye on the interior lends the space an ethereal, otherworldly dimension. Not too otherworldly though. The sculpture is meant to give us pause; it's made of 53,780 plastic bottles in all, the number thrown away in New York City in just one hour.

    Head in the Clouds is on view through September 22.

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    2. "Lightness of Being" at City Hall Park
    The Public Art Fund's latest show consists of 11 quirky, decidedly family-friendly artworks: ten sculptures and one performance piece—that of a morose clown sitting on a bench—by an international panoply of artists. Look out for Olaf Breuning's The Humans, a lovable sextet of creatures depicting the artist's view of human evolution; Daniel Buren's Suncatcher, pictured; and Gary Webb's totemic column Buzzing It Down.

    "Lightness of Being" is on view through December 13.

  • Courtesy Public Art Fund

    3. "Configurations" in Downtown Brooklyn
    Another Public Art Fund–sponsored exhibition, "Configurations" is an eclectic collection of sculptures by four artists at the MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn. Each is concerned with the way works change when you walk around them, and how they relate to the human body in the process. One of our favorites is Esther Kläs's Gelift [RGB] (2012), three monochromatic monoliths in the colors red, green and blue, referring to the RGB additive color model. Kids, though, will likely find them just plain fun.

    "Configurations" is on view through September 16.

  • Courtesy Madison Square Park

    4. Red, Yellow and Blue in Madison Square Park
    NYC-based artist Orly Genger made Red, Yellow and Blue, her massive installation at Madison Square Park, entirely out of hand-knotted nautical rope—1.4 million feet of it, to be exact. The three undulating walls of rope, each in a different primary color and shaped on-site by the artist, dissect the park into spaces both hidden and visible, making it the ideal spot for a game of hide-and-seek, or just a great adventure with a camera in hand. Join the family workshop on August 24 for even more fun with the installation.

    Red, Yellow and Blue is on view through September 8.

  • Courtesy Randall's Island Park Alliance

    5. Flow.13 on Randall's Island
    While all the installations at Flow.13, this year's edition of the annual summer art exhibition along the shoreline of Randall's Island, are worth seeing, we especially love the installation New Growth by artist Anne Percoco. All of her trees, which are artfully placed alongside natural trees, are blowups of images the artist found in volumes of the Yellow Pages. The kids may just think they've entered a cartoon fantasy world.

    Flow.13 is on view through October 31.

  • Photograph: Nate Dorr

    6. Folly: tree wood at Socrates Sculpture Park
    The winner of this year's Folly, a competition cosponsored by Socrates Sculpture Park and the Architectural League of New York, is architect Toshihiro Oki's tree wood, an installation at Socrates Sculpture Park whose stay has just been extended by about six months (it was supposed to close in July). The work embodies the Romantic notion of a folly: a structure in a garden that has no explicit purpose except to frame a new perspective. In tree wood's case, it's an airy wooden enclosure set amid a grove of trees whose centerpiece is an ornate glass chandelier, turning the notion of an interior domicile inside-out.

    "Folly: tree wood" is on view through March 2014.

  • Courtesy Socrates Sculpture Garden

    7. Parting in Long Island City
    Last year's Folly winner, an installation called Curtain by Jerome W Haferd and K Brandt Knapp, is experiencing a second life beginning in the summer of 2013. Now called Parting, the work is the inaugural project for a 10,000-square-foot green space in Long Island City (Court Square at 43-29 Crescent St) that used to be a parking lot. Families can explore the dynamic art-architecture hybrid along a path within the structure, a geometrical grid made of wooden beams that's draped with elegant "curtains" of plastic chain. Try to find the one spot where you can see a square bit of sky unobstructed by chains.

    Parting is on view through March 31, 2014.

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    8. Party Wall at MoMA PS1
    At Long Island City's MoMA PS1, midsummer means one thing: the return of Warm Up dance parties in the courtyard in the company of the Young Architects Program prize—this year Party Wall by CODA (a.k.a. Caroline O'Donnell from Ithaca, NY)—which must, to fulfill its requirements, offer shade, seating and water. Its massive steel framework, which seems to spell WALL upside down (in fact, its shadow spells the word right side up), is covered with an intricate wooden lattice made of materials left over from skateboard production. Whole boards can be removed to act as chairs and tables, and you can even take one out to practice your skateboarding moves (sans wheels) on the gravel. Refreshing cooling stations, in the form of mist spraying and several mini pools anyone is welcome to take a dip in, make it a sort of built-in air conditioner for the outdoor space—and, naturally, a total kid magnet.



  • Photograph: Lee Magill

    9. Broken Bridge II at the High Line
    Fans of El Anatsui, the artist feted with a major retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum (closing Aug 18), have had the great luck of being able to visit and ponder his largest outdoor installation to date at the same time: Broken Bridge II, mounted on a building facade alongside the High Line (between 21st and 22nd Sts). The work, made of recycled pressed tin and mirrored glass, brings light and reflections to an otherwise lifeless plane, transforming a walk through the park into an unfolding experience of perception.

    Broken Bridge II is on view through September.

  • Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

    10. "Ideas of Stone" at Madison Square Park
    Opening September 26, MSP's forthcoming exhibition showcases another set of trees, these by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone; each of the three 40-foot bronze trees holds within it one or more mammoth rocks which seem to sit precariously amid the arbor's airy branches, defying gravity yet still hostage to it.

    "Ideas of Stone" is on view through February 9, 2014.

Photographer: Lesley Chang

1. Head in the Clouds by StudioKCA.
This year's City of Dreams Pavilion on Governors Island looks at first glance to be a fluffy cloud in the middle of a verdant lawn. On closer inspection you realize not only that it's made of recycled, gallon-size water bottles but also that you can enter it. A second layer of smaller water bottles filled with organic blue dye on the interior lends the space an ethereal, otherworldly dimension. Not too otherworldly though. The sculpture is meant to give us pause; it's made of 53,780 plastic bottles in all, the number thrown away in New York City in just one hour.

Head in the Clouds is on view through September 22.


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