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The installation of Shahzia Sikander's "Witness."
Photograph: By Rashmi Gill / The installation of Shahzia Sikander's "Witness."

The best outdoor art in NYC this winter

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

Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Contributors
Anna Rahmanan
&
Shaye Weaver
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New York City is full of free outdoor art that you don't even have to go to a museum to see. Sculptures, murals and photographs can be found in its parks, sidewalks and on its buildings!

Locations such as the High Line, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens and other NYC locales all have a wide variety of pieces awaiting you, from massive sculptures to eye-popping murals and graffiti.

Best of all, it costs you nothing to pay a visit. Below, find the best outdoor art in NYC to brighten up even the coldest winter day.

RECOMMENDED: The best art shows and exhibits in NYC

Best outdoor art in NYC

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Statues of nine men from history and religion perch atop the courthouse near Madison Square Park. Now, for the first time, the representation of a woman has joined their noble rooftop plinths. 

"Havah…to breathe, air, life," an exhibition by artist Shahzia Sikander focusing on themes of justice, has brought stunning golden sculptures to Madison Square Park and the nearby courthouse at 27 Madison Avenue (officially called the Courthouse of the Appellate Division, First Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York). The statues will be on view through June 4, 2023. 

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“Pulse Portal,” an art installation by sculpture artist Davis McCarty that was shown at Burning Man in 2016, is now on display at Brookfield Place’s Waterfront Plaza—and it’s a creative piece of work that you definitely want to see in person.

The eye-catching, 20-foot-tall archway is made from materials developed by NASA that transform in color based on the angle of the viewer. 

The focus on shades and hues is not a purely aesthetic one. According to McCarty himself, in fact, “the vibrant colors represent the diversity of humankind and celebrate the individual spark living inside each of us.”

See it through March 10, 2023. 

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A new kinetic installation is lighting up the Broadway plazas in the Garment District between 39th and 40th Streets through February 24, 2023.

Dubbed "Living Lantern," the piece is fueled by the wind and viewers get to see its outer membranes open and close, allowing light to filter from its core and change the lantern's colors, in real time.

The very dynamic piece is striking in size as well: it stands nearly 14 feet tall and stretches 20 feet wide.

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New Yorkers madly in love with all things Yayoi Kusama should head to the midtown Louis Vuitton store, where a life-like robot version of the iconic 93-year-old Japanese contemporary artist is currently painting her famous spots from inside of the shop’s window. 

In addition to the automaton at the Louis Vuitton store in midtown, the swanky Fifth Avenue store pays homage to Kusama through a giant installation that decorates the front of the shop. The facade of the building features a photo of Kusama holding onto one of the bags from the new collection while painting multi-colored dots.

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“Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings” is a new 9-foot-tall sculpture of Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace in Dumbo at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. Specifically, you’ll find the new work at the northeast corner of Prospect Street and Washington Street.

The stainless steel and bronze creation is the work of artist Sherwin Banfield, who sought to both honor Biggie and challenge "the traditions of western public sculpture by representing his African American artistry, lineage and evolution."

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A hefty, both in form and in function, new piece of art has taken up residence on Governors Island.

"Moving Chains," by Charles Gaines, is a giant, 110-foot-tall kinetic sculpture featuring sturdy chains that rotate overhead. The monument "addresses the reality of systemic racism in the United States of America through embodied and visual experience and provides critical historical context on our extraordinary political division today."

The new project is the island's largest public art commission to date and you can see it through June 2023. It's presented in partnership with Times Square Arts.

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It's the fifth year for Art in Focus, the public art program at Rockefeller Center. This year's display will bring the work of three contemporary artists to spaces all around Rock Center. This iteration focuses on abstraction, celebrating subjectivity to embrace a sense of escapism and surrealism within dreamlike environments. Expect texture, bold color blocking and monochrome palettes.

The first installation, by Nicaraguan-American artist Joel Gaitan, is now on display at 10 Rockefeller Plaza, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 50 Rockefeller Plaza and the street and concourse levels of 45 Rockefeller Plaza. Next up will be installations by fiber and collage artist Basil Kincaid, then from Brooklyn-based painter Dominique Fung.

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When you appreciate the greenspaces around NYC, do you ever stop to think about the people who make those spaces so enjoyable? Artist Fanny Allié hopes you do, and her new sculpture exhibition called Shadows brings those park workers to the forefront.

The mixed-media artist created 10 colorful sculptures inspired by the workers who maintain Bella Abzug Park (542 W 36th St.). To create the sculptures, Allié spent time with each person and asked them to pose in a manner that reflected themselves. She captured their poses on film, drew their outlines and translated them into steel silhouettes. Each worker chose their sculpture’s color.

The exhibit invites people to experience the park in a new way as a place for compelling, free art. In addition to the sculptures, visitors can scan a QR code to hear the subjects sing songs, whistle, hum, laugh and share stories about their work.

The Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance commissioned Allié to create the new public art, which will be on view until September 2023.

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Marvel at the sculptures by artist Hew Locke placed on the exterior of The Met. The gold-hued sculptures are part of the museum's third facade commission series. Three sculpture sit tucked into niches at the museum's facade into the likeness of trophies, two partial and two whole, that reference works of art in The Met collection. "At once visually stunning and critically incisive, Locke’s practice relies on the strategy of appropriation and an aesthetic of excess and theatricality to deconstruct iconographies of power and to explore global histories of conquest, migration, and exchange," The Met says.

Locke was born Scotland and raised in Guyana, a multiracial, multicultural nation in South America that was formed in the crucible of indigeneity, European colonialism, the African slave trade and Indian indentureship. 

The Facade Commission: Hew Locke, Gilt is now on view outside of the musuem through May 22, 2023. 

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Stand next to a new 18-foot-tall patinated bronze sculpture called Ancestor at the southeast entrance to Central Park. The colossal artwork depicts a universal mother figure linking our cultural and personal pasts and futures. Adorned with the heads of her 23 children that extend from her body, she embodies multiculturalism, pluralism and interconnectedness. They manifest a sense of belonging and celebrate the mother as a keeper of wisdom and the eternal source of creation and refuge.

"Ancestor" is by New Delhi and London-based artist Bharti Kher, and the exhibition is presented by the Public Art Fund. 

See Ancestor for free at Doris C. Freedman Plaza through August 27, 2023. 

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Next time you're near the Times Square subway station, check out the entrance found within the pedestrian plaza near the corner of 43rd Street. It has a massive new mosaic by artist Nick Cave that commuters can admire. Commissioned by the MTA's public arts program, the work is called "Every One, Each One, Equal All," and it is made up of three separate art pieces.

"Times Square is one of the busiest, most diverse and fabulously kinetic places on the planet," Cave said in an official statement. "For this project I took the above ground color, movement and cross-pollination of humanity, bundled it into a powerful and compact energy mass that is taken underground."

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A cool art installation that uses augmented reality is transforming Battery Park City into a bird watcher's paradise. Those who walk along Battery Park City's riverfront, from South Cove north along Rockefeller Park, will be able to access an invisible world of birds.

Named "Bird’s-Eye View," this new artwork by New York City-based artist Shuli Sadé showcases 30 species of birds that seek temporary or permanent refuge near Manhattan’s waterways via photographs and original watercolors by Sadé through the Adobe Aero app and a smartphone camera. All you need to do is scan one of 70 QR codes on any of the 14 signs along the water to view local birds and explore their habitats and migratory patterns.

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If you're planning on walking the High Line in the upcoming months, don't miss a new large-scale bronze replica of our very own Statue of Liberty wearing a cartoonish mask. It's taken up residence inside the public park at 16th Street. "You know who I am" is the work of artist Paola Pivi, as commissioned by High Line Art and it will stay put through March 2023. 

The mask donned by the 23-feet-high sculpture will change every two months. The stories behind each mask—including one inspired by Pivi's own son—will be explored on the High Line's website.

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The massive ghostly figure of a shed now rises out of the Hudson River near Pier 52.

The permanent exhibitition, named "Day's End" by its creator David Hammond, is made of slender steel pipes that reach 52 feet at its peak and together measure 325 feet long and 65 feet wide. It pays tribute to an artist, Gordon Matta-Clark, who transformed an abandoned shed that once sat on Pier 52 as well as to the history of the city's waterfront. In 1975, he carved massive openings into the shed, which he described as a "temple to sun and water," according to the Whitney, which proposed the public art installation.

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Fearless Girl is the work of artist Kristen Visbal as commissioned by State Street Global Advisors. The bronze sculpture was moved away from its first location in 2010, following complaints that it was distracting tourists from the Charging Bull statue that is also found there. The outline of Fearless Girl's footprints is still by the downtown park, though, and folks are encouraged to "stand for her" while in the area.
The statue itself has been standing tall and strong in front of the New York Stock Exchange for a few years now. No matter where our girl stands, one thing's for sure: women are making strides all around the country and we should celebrate them today and forevermore.

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 at Zuccotti Park. 

Check out this week’s top art shows

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