1 Charging Bull, Bowling Green Park
This enduring symbol of in-your-face capitalism has become synonymous with Wall Street, but it started as guerrilla art. Sculptor Arturo Di Modica built it with his own money and illegally installed the 7,000-pound beast in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. The cops impounded it, but by popular demand it was resurrected down the street.
2 Triumph of Civic Virtue, Green-Wood Cemetery
This 22-ton monstrosity has been the subject of near-universal hatred since its debut in 1922. It’s meant to depict Virtue triumphing over Vice and Corruption; what it actually looks like is a big, naked jerk tromping all over two perfectly nice ladies. Shuffled from borough to borough by politicians who found it loathsome, the piece finally came to roost in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery in 2012.
3 V.I. Lenin, Lower East Side
No, that isn’t a giant hailing a cab in the sky—it’s revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The Soviet government commissioned the piece in the late ’80s, but the state collapsed before it could be unveiled; it eventually found its way to the roof of a downtown apartment block called—what else?—Red Square. And it gets weirder: Behind the statue ticks a clock with the numbers displayed out of order.
4 Giuseppe Garibaldi, Washington Square Park
Sculptor Giovanni Turini’s plans for this effigy of the Italian general, which was to perch atop a boulder flanked by soldiers, were cut short when the project’s coffers suddenly ran dry. In order to make it stand on a pedestal, foundry workers yanked the figure’s legs into an inhuman position. Turini came back from a trip abroad to find his masterpiece mutilated.
5 Ralph Kramden, Port Authority Bus Terminal
This homage to The Honeymooners’ bus driver, commissioned by TV Land, shows a smiling Jackie Gleason (it’s probably the only grin you’ll see in this depot). The clincher is the description on the plaque, which reads: BUS DRIVER—RACCOON LODGE TREASURER—DREAMER.
6 James Fountain, Union Square
Clean drinking water wasn’t easy to find in 19th-century Gotham, which was one reason folks turned to the sauce. Philanthropist Daniel Willis James funded this public fountain in the 1880s in an effort to encourage temperance. The water-spewing lions’ heads remain today, but the tin cups that were chained alongside them are gone. Score one for hygiene!
7 James Gordon Bennett Memorial, Herald Square
Is something in Herald Square watching you? That would be the pair of owls on this monument, whose eyes glow green every few seconds come nightfall. The birds once perched atop the now-demolished New York Herald Building—they were an obsession for eccentric publisher Bennett, who claimed that an owl once guided him to land when he was lost at sea during the Civil War.
8 Minerva, Green-Wood Cemetery
In terms of badass female mythical figures, Minerva is right up there with Lady Liberty. So it’s only fitting that this 1920 statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom, erected atop Brooklyn’s highest point, is positioned to wave to (or high-five?) her torch-bearing lady-bro to the northwest.
9 Shinran Shonin, New York Buddhist Church
Many of the buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed when American forces dropped an atomic bomb in 1945. But this bronze statue of the Buddhist monk survived, even though it stood less than two miles from the center of the blast. After the war, a Japanese man had it shipped to New York, where it guards this Upper West Side temple.
10 Angel of the Waters, Central Park
Emma Stebbins was the first woman to create a public-art piece in NYC, after the city commissioned her to design Bethesda Fountain’s centerpiece in 1861. Rumor holds that the artist modeled the angel on her lover, stage actress Charlotte Saunders Cushman, who was renowned for her cross-dressing turn as Romeo.