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Photograph: Nicholas Knight

The best outdoor art in NYC this fall and winter

Check out our recommendations for the absolute best outdoor art to see around New York City this fall and winter

By Howard Halle

Hey, just because the weather is turning cold, doesn’t mean you should take a pass on checking out all of the fabulous outdoor art projects displayed across New York City—including locations such as the High Line, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens. There’s a wide variety of pieces awaiting you, from a monumental head to a handball court repurposed as art. Best of all, it costs you nothing to pay a visit. So why are you just standing there? Bundle up, get out into that bracing air and have a look. And if you want to know what to see, consult our list of the best outdoor art in NYC this fall and winter.

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Photograph: Courtesy Madison Square Park Conservancy

1. Leonardo Drew, "City in the Grass"

Roughly textured abstract assemblage is the specialty of mid-career artist Leonardo Drew and he remains true to form is his project for Madison Square Park. Representing his most ambitious effort yet, the installation takes shape as a panoramic city model made largely of pieces of wood collaged together to form buildings and streets. Undulating across the park’s lawn, City in the Grass transforms into aerial map that gives viewer the sense of bestriding an urban landscape like a colossus.    

Madison Square Park, through Dec 15

Photograph: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

2. Harold Ancart, "Subliminal Standard"

People are usually discouraged from touching art or getting to too close it, especially if the piece in question is a painting. However, this outdoor art project consists of an abstract mural that not only allows you to touch it, but to slam a rubber ball against it. Subliminal Standard consists of the aforementioned painting on a freestanding, 16-foot-high concrete wall that serves as a playable handball court. It’s the brainchild of Brooklyn-based, Belgian-born artist Harold Ancart, who took his inspiration from NYC’s many outdoor handball courts. The installation is painted in the blue and red standard colors used to delineate areas of play, while it’s overall funky look is meant to suggest years of wear and tear.

Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn, through Mar 1

Lubaina Himid, "Five Conversations," 2019
Lubaina Himid, "Five Conversations," 2019
Photograph: Timothy Schenck, courtesy the High Line

3. “En Plein Air”

The phrase en plain air is French for outdoors, but in 19th-century art it was also a used to describe painters who took their easels out in the open to render landscapes. Generally associated with Impressionism, painting en plain air was largely made possible by the invention of pigments that were pre-mixed and packaged in tubes, something that wasn’t available before the 1800s. The terms has been adopted as the title for The High Line’s group showing of commissioned works, each literally taking the idea of painting out of doors through installation by eight artists: Ei Arakawa, Firelei Báez, Daniel Buren, Sam Falls, Lubaina Himid, Lara Schnitger, Ryan Sullivan and Vivian Suter. Each offers a unique take on the notion.

The High Line, various locations, through Mar 2020

Photograph: Timothy Schenck, courtesy the High Line

4. Ruth Ewan, "Silent Agitator"

The work of Scottish artist Ruth Ewan explores the history of revolutionary and activist movements and their connection to certain places and times. For her High Line commission, she reaches back to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the early labor movement in the United States during World War I. The piece reprises an illustration for an IWW poster in three-dimensional form, which, like the original, takes form as a clock with letters spelling out the words ORGANIZATION on the dial. Ewan also includes the caption for the IWW image, which reads, “What time is it? Time to organize.” Standing out from the surrounding luxury residencies created for the One Percent, Silent Agitator recalls a period when dreams for an egalitarian society still seemed plausible.

The High Line at 24th St, through Mar 2020

Photograph: Courtesy the High Line

5. Simone Leigh, "Brick House"

A 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a black woman, Simone Leigh’s sculpture represents the inaugural commission for the High Line’s new public art venue, the Plinth, located next to Hudson Yards. It takes it title from the 1977 Motown hit by the Commodores, and portrays its subject as a monumental head crowned by an Afro wreathed in braids atop a domed-shaped body. Leigh’s piece focuses on the intersectionality of feminism and African-American identity, and how both relate to idea of home as the ultimate foundation for both political and economic power. In this respect, Brick House salutes the strength and fortitude of African-American women in the face of adversity throughout American history, from slavery to the Black Lives Matter protests of today.

The High Line Plinth, Tenth Ave at W 33rd St,
through Sept 2020

Photograph: Christopher Stach, © 2018 Morgan Art Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Kasmin Gallery

6. Robert Indiana

Robert Indiana’s LOVE series is among the most enduring icons of ’60s Pop Art, second only, perhaps, to Andy Warhol’s Campbells Soup cans. Rather than being an appropriation of some sort of product, brand or image, however, LOVE is a graphic invention by Indiana, who originally created the design in 1965 for the Museum of Modern Art’s annual Christmas card. Using a bold serif font, Indiana stacked LOVE’s first two letters atop its last two, with the O insouciantly tilted to one side. The work became his signature, and in 1970, he made the first of many LOVE sculptures. The three versions installed on the rooftop sculpture garden of Kasmin Gallery’s High Line adjacent location offer a multilingual twist, with iterations of the word in Hebrew (AHAVA) and Spanish (AMOR) as well as in English.    

Paul Kasmin Sculpture Garden, 509 W 27th St, ongoing

Photograph: Timothy Schenck, Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York

7. Isa Genzken, Rose III

Weighing in at 1,000 pounds, Isa Genzken's Rose III was unveiled on the seventh anniversary of Occupy Wall Street’s takeover of Zuccotti Park. Genzken works in a wide range of mediums, and giant flowers have been a recurring theme for her: A similar rose sculpture was installed on the New Museum’s facade from 2010 to 2013, while a pair of gargantuan white orchids (rising to 28 and 34 feet respectively) stood at Doris C. Freedman Plaza in front of Central Park during the spring and summer of 2016. As for Rose III, it remains on long term view. 

Zuccotti Park, ongoing

Paul Kopkau, Yard Shadow: Nokia & Yard Shadow: Samsung, both 2019
Paul Kopkau, Yard Shadow: Nokia & Yard Shadow: Samsung, both 2019
Photograph: Scott Lynch, courtesy the artist and Socrates Sculpture Park

8. The Socrates Annual 2019

Socrates Sculpture Park's yearly round-up of outdoor projects features commissions by 15 artists and artist collaborators who participated in the Park’s fellowship program. Created on the Park’s Long Island City site over the course of the summer, the works engage a wide variety of themes, from the legacy of colonialism to the impact of technology on contemporary life. As usual, the work is presented against the spectacular backdrop of midtown Manhattan across the East River.

Socrates Sculpture Park, through Mar 8, 2020

Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

9. “The Facade Commission: Wangechi Mutu, The New Ones, will free Us”

For the first-ever facade commission at the Met, Mutu fills the niches flanking the museum’s entrance with four monumental bronzes that put an Afro-futuristic spin on a classical architectural feature known as a caryatid, a column or pillar that takes the form of an allegorical female figure.

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, through Jan 12

Photograph: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Public Art Fund, C L E A R I N G, New York/Brussels; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich/New York

10. "Jean-Marie Appriou: The Horses"

The work of French artist Jean-Marie Appriou comprises chimeric figures created from human, animal and botanical forms. These same qualities characterize his public art project for Central Park’s Doris C. Freedman Plaza. Depicting a trio of massively-scaled horses, the piece is a dreamlike deconstruction of the equestrian statues in Central Park and places like it. In fact, Appriou took his inspiration from a prime specimen sited nearby: Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s gilded depiction of William Tecumseh Sherman on horseback. In contrast to the famed Civil-War General’s resplendent steed, Appriou’s horses appear wan and raggedly, with one beast missing its top half, and another missing a large chunk of its midsection. They look like apparitions, survivors of an unknown calamity—and indeed, you could say Appriou has erected a monument to our apocalyptic moment. 

Doris C Freedman Plaza, through Aug 30, 2020

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