Get us in your inbox

A chandelier made of plastic bottles hangs in the Upper East Side.
Photograph: By Zach Pontz

Chandeliers made of plastic water bottles decorate the UES in this new art project

See them on the Upper East Side through the end of the year.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

On the Upper East Side, dazzling chandeliers are a common decoration in fancy apartments. But these new chandelier sculptures in the neighborhood aren't like any other. 

Artist Willie Cole recently debuted four monumental chandeliers made of thousands of plastic water bottles as a way to draw attention to single-use plastics. The sculptures will be on view through the end of the year on the median of Park Avenue between 69th and 70th Streets.

RECOMMENDED: A stunning globe made of plastic waste is coming to NYC

The sculptor transformed 9,000 disposed water bottles to create the four chandeliers, each with their own distinct look and title—”the Liberty Lantern,” “Soul Catcher,” “Dirt Devil” and “3000 Buddha.”

Aritst Willie Cole works on installating his sculptures.
Photograph: Courtesy of Willie Cole Arts

"The struggle between beauty and ugliness is embedded in my chandeliers: trash as treasure as teacher," he said in a press release. 

In addition to addressing the global issue of single-use plastic bottles, Cole also wanted to underscore the need for fresh drinking water while acknowledging the damage caused to the environment by its disposal.

"It's not always easy to open up perception and see familiar objects in a fresh way," he said.

A close-up of the sculpture shows an image of the Statue of Liberty in each bottle.
Photograph: By Zach Pontz

As for the chandelier concept, his work was commissioned by the Fund for Park Avenue and the New York City Parks Department, so he wanted to make something that would fit with the elegance of a Park Avenue address. Cole created the chandeliers during his 2023 residency at Express Newark via Rutgers University.

As an artist who has exhibited extensively in galleries and museums since the 1990s, Cole is known for his assemblages of found objects, such as irons, bicycles, water bottles and shoes. His works offer a compelling commentary on gender, consumerism and African American identity. Cole’s work is represented in numerous museum collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

If you're into "trash art," also don't miss "Earth Poetica," a globe made of plastic waste on view in Lower Manhattan, and "DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash" at the Brooklyn Museum.

Popular on Time Out

    You may also like
    You may also like