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Colorful sculptures made of zipties.
Photograph: By Gabby Jones / Courtesy of HYHK Alliance, 2023

The best outdoor art in NYC this spring

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

Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Contributors
Anna Rahmanan
,
Shaye Weaver
&
Ian Kumamoto
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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 stroll by on a spring day.

RECOMMENDED: The best art shows and exhibits in NYC

Best outdoor art in NYC

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Sadly, seeing trash on New York City's streets is nothing new. Candy wrappers, cigarette butts, latex gloves, random clothing, and single-use cups litter sidewalks and roadways. 

In honor of Earth Month, a new sculpture aptly titled "Single Use Reflections" encourages viewers to pay closer attention to the trash we create—and how we can change that both systemically and individually. Beauty brand Kiehl's unveiled a sculptural installation by artist and activist Benjamin Von Wong. The artwork is on view at the High Line through April 17.

A mountain of single-use household items and beauty products, all doused in silver paint, form the foundation for "Single Use Reflections." Laundry detergent jugs, body wash containers, and lotion pump bottles combine to create a visual spectacle with menacing tentacle-like arms. Though the artwork can feel a bit overwhelming, it also helps people understand how they can be a small part of the solution. Mirrors decorated with phrases like "I am a refill warrior" jut out of the sculpture, encouraging visitors to rethink their reliance on single-use products. 

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This winter, giant videos will be projected onto the Manhattan Bridge and along the BQE every Thursday through Saturday from dusk 'til 10pm.

The works that are going to be projected were chosen from more than 200 submissions, and will change from month to month. We all love a theme, and the different months are divided into three separate "volumes," featuring flowers, community messages, and Surrealist animations.

Here's what to see:

  • Volume Two, on display from February 15 to March 18, focuses on artwork that explores what it means to live in New York City, and you'll be able to see several works depicting everyday New Yorkers doing things like shopping, chewing gum and obviously minding their own business.
  • Volume Three, from March 21 to April 12, will blend real life with animation and explore the meaning of home, featuring the surrealist work of surrealist artist Nancy Sepe. 
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A pastel-hued floral mural with a feminist message is the newest addition to the High Line. Titled "Thank You Darling," this mural by Dutch artist Lily van der Stokker celebrates the playful, feminine realm often overlooked or derided in our culture. 

"Van der Stokker’s work, which she has referred to as 'feminist conceptual pop art,' is undeniably joyful and positive. However, it often simultaneously speaks to weighty themes—aging, health, and, more generally, the lived experience of being a woman within patriarchal structures," a press release from High Line Art explains.

Her installation for the High Line continues this practice for a wide public audience, offering a sweet expression of gratitude to the millions of passerby and inhabitants of nearby buildings. Find the words THANK YOU DARLiNG (with that capitalization) on the side of a building adjacent to the High Line at 22nd Street.

With the word "darling" styled in bright yellow bubble letters, the mural seems to reach out to personally thank every single person who sees it. Check it out through November 2024.

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There's something unusual "blooming" among Bella Abzug Park's natural fauna.

Part of a solo exhibition by Korean American artist Sui Park, this outdoor installation in Hudson Yards features the artist's biomorphic sculptures, which are shockingly made using plastic materials like zip ties and fishing line.

For Park, who trained as both an architect and in the ancient art of Korean basketry, "nature is a sacred space that allows her to slow down, consider her surroundings, acknowledge her thoughts, and find inspiration," reads a press release. "With this exhibition, she captures that sentiment using humble materials and reconstructs them into whimsical forms, awakening one’s senses and encouraging others to connect with their thoughts as well as their surroundings."

See the artwork now through fall 2024.

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There's a massive sea serpent on the loose in the Rockaways with an uncanny resemblance to a subway train. This silvery gray creature snakes through an empty lot, but it comes in peace. 

"Subway Sea Serpent," the latest sculpture by Zaq Landsberg and Joey Castillo is now on view indefinitely at Beach 60th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. 

The artists were inspired by the A train, the crucial subway line that links the Rockaways to the rest of New York City. Located not far from subway station, it looks as if the artwork jumped from the elevated tracks to burrow through the ground in search of the beach. Segments of the cars peek above the grass as if the serpent's swimming through the dirt. 

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New York City and alligators share an interesting history, as sightings of the animals have become a big portion of the local folklore. That relationship is now on display in Union Square Park, courtesy of "NYC Legend," a new work of public art by Swedish artist Alexander Klingspor.

Presented in collaboration with Mollbrinks Gallery, the bronze sculpture features a life-size alligator on the back of a manhole cover lid. It draws on the century-old myth of sewer alligators living under us in New York, perhaps inhabiting the sewer system found just below the cover lids we can step on all over town.

The aptly named "NYC Legend" will be on display at Union Square's Triangle Park, right opposite 10 Union Square East, through June 2024.

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Visitors to Central Park can get an eyeful of "Parabolic Light," a 12-foot tall, magenta-tinted sculpture by Brooklyn-born artist Fred Eversley, set at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue. Cast in polyurethane and shaped like a tapered cylinder, the luminescent piece "serves as a focal point of serenity, transcendence, and exploration of new dimensions and perspectives," reads a press release.

"My parabolic forms are all about energy. They are made to reflect all the infinite combinations of internal reflections, refractions, color changes, and other optical phenomena that one can experience within a single sculpture," said Eversley, adding that he hopes passersby will pause and slow down to explore the artwork.

It's now on view through Sunday, August 25, 2024.

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Four beautiful, powerful murals are adding some colorful inspiration around Brooklyn thanks to a local art organization called Groundswell. Local students painted each one with the help of a professional artist, giving kids a chance to truly make their mark on the neighborhood. 

More than 50 students worked on the murals as part of Groundswell's Summer Leadership Institute program. Since its founding more than two decades ago, Groundswell has focused on using art as a tool for social change; it's painted more than 600 murals across the city so far, including these new additions.

Find the murals in Bushwick, Sunset Park, Cypress Hills and Brownsville. Here's the story behind each one.  

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Right outside the historic Villa Albertine’s garden wall, sits a 4-foot-tall bronze sculpture of the Little Prince from the much beloved French children’s book, Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The new artwork by French sculptor Jean-Marc de Pas and the American Society of Le Souvenir Français with the Antoine de Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation honors the 80th anniversary of the 1943 book and the lives it has touched across the decades.

The sculpture was carved from clay and cast in bronze in one single piece at the sculptor’s studio in Normandy, France and was just unveiled at the Villa Albertine’s Payne Whitney Mansion at 972 Fifth Avenue.

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As part of the NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks Program, "Appearances" is a new temporary public-art installation that features the works of seven contemporary artists from three continents in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights.

On view through Tuesday, April 30, 2024, the outdoor exhibition will explore the connection between the art and the environment via works from self-proclaimed "object maker" Elizabeth Akamatsu, abstract expressionist Billy Sherry and "Appearances" creator herself, Dorothy Palanza, among others.

"I am so pleased Fort Tryon Park is hosting these creative and thought-provoking pieces, which invite us to contemplate the natural world around us as well as our role as humans within our complex yet resilient environment," NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said in a statement. "Public art installations like this enhance our shared greenspaces and support their important function as community spaces and as sites for reflection and connection."

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Visitors to Marsha P. Johnson Park in Brooklyn will now be greeted with a colorful floral archway in honor of the late transgender activist. 

After growing up in New Jersey during the 1940s, Johnson moved to Greenwich Village adopting the full name Marsha P. Johnson with the "P" standing for "Pay It No Mind." The archway bears that phrase in bold white lettering. "To her, this was a life motto and a response to questions about her gender," according to the New-York Historical Society.

Large floral sculptures in pink, blue, red and yellow decorate the top of the archway, with gem-like petal designs along the sides.

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If you’ve spent any amount of time in Upper Manhattan, chances are you’ve seen a mysterious figure spray painting local storefronts in brightly colored hues.

Snoeman, a beloved NYC-based graffiti artist, likes to keep a low profile. On the streets, it’s unlikely you’ll recognize him without a spray can in his hands and a protective mask over his face. Online, you'll find nothing more than a partly-covered profile. But the same can’t be said for Snoeman’s work—a bold, unique style that is instantly recognizable from miles away.

Since the start of the pandemic, Snoeman has been at work beautifying bodega exteriors in Washington Heights and beyond. The artist’s use of vivid color and thick lines, most times paired with uplifting messages and signature figures, has helped local businesses gain attention while livening up surrounding neighborhoods. Take a stroll through the neighborhood and see how many you can find.

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A vibrant new sculpture called “Old Tree” is now on view at the High Line. 

Find it over the intersection of 10th Avenue and 30th Street, claiming residency through fall 2024. Created by Zurich-based artist Pamela Rosenkranz, the vivid sculpture is the third High Line Plinth commission, which changes every 18 months.

The pink and red “Old Tree” sculpture stretches 25 feet into the sky. It's shaped like a realistic tree but constructed completely from man-made materials. 

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A new 25-foot-tall statue celebrating the life of abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman now sits in the recently renamed park Harriet Tubman Square by Broad Street in Newark, New Jersey. It's located just 20 minutes from NYC.

Shadow of a Face, designed by architect and New Jersey native Nina Cooke John, replaced the monument of Christopher Columbus that stood in its place until its removal in 2020, following George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis.

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Every day, thousands of people walk through Times Square, rushing to catch the subway, heading to work, meandering through shops—many of them unaware that they're stepping over a revolutionary art project that's been a part of the city for decades. 

Purposely unmarked, it's easy to miss this piece of auditory art because truly experiencing it requires tuning into a specific frequency in the most cacophonous place in America. The late artist Max Neuhaus's installation called "Times Square" sounds like the echo of a bell ringing. It's hard to place this droning tone among all the other noises there, especially because the sound emanates from a typical grate right beneath your feet. 

The work is on view 24/7, but we recommend visiting in the early morning when it's quieter. Head to the Broadway Pedestrian Plaza between 45th and 46th Streets (between Broadway and Seventh Avenue), remove your headphones and listen. 

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A new public art installation by artist Curry J. Hackett has just taken over The Plaza at 300 Ashland in Brooklyn, and it's as futuristic as art gets these days: the piece, dubbed Ugly Beauties, features panoramic, AI-generated images of Black folks among various native weeds.

According to an official press release, the work, on display through May 2, highlights a “metaphorical connection between society’s perception of these species and its treatment of Black people.”

Upon approaching the structure, the viewer will immediately notice the juxtaposition of the various elements depicted, prompting all to think of our perception of what is beautiful and what is part of society at large.

“Ugly Beauties expands on Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s commitment to activating its shared spaces with art installations that enliven the public realm and capture the spirit of the
neighborhood,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, in a statement. “With residents, shoppers, workers, diners, and other visitors rushing around the neighborhood, we hope this piece will impart a moment of reflection and help Brooklynites to realize the beauty all around them. ”

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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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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.
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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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