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This kaleidoscopic new public art installation in Manhattan will literally brighten your day

It's like being inside a box of Crayola crayons.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to stand inside a kaleidoscope, this immersive new public art installation in Manhattan West offers some clues.

Evoking an amusement park Tilt-A-Whirl with its shape and colors like a pack of Crayola crayons, the piece dazzles among the neighborhood’s glass skyscrapers. It beckons visitors to walk through the installation and think about the illusion and physicality of color and natural light in space.

Called “Hymn to the Big Wheel,” it’s the first time this work by British artist Liz West has been shown in the United States. See it at Manhattan West (385 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea) until September 5 and then at Brookfield Place (230 Vesey Street, Battery Park City) from September 9-25. The work is presented by Arts Brookfield and curated by MASSIVart.

An octagonal-shaped sculpture with colorful panels.
Photograph: Courtesy of Arts Brookfield | The effect is kaleidoscopic.

In Manhattan West this week, people snapped selfies inside the sculpture, kids ran (or scootered) through it, and others admired the work from afar while eating dinner in the plaza. 

Inside the octagonal structure, the effect is both disorienting and serene, especially where the jewel-tone transparent colored sheets overlap with one another. That’s likely exactly what West intended as she’s known for blurring the boundaries between sculpture, architecture, design, and painting to create playful, immersive works. If the sun is just right, you’ll also see a prism-like sundial effect on the pavement. The best time to visit for optimal shadow viewing is between 9-11am and 4-6pm.

I hope that the work brings great joy and a much-needed dose of color to New York audiences

“I hope that the work brings great joy and a much-needed dose of color to New York audiences, as they will see the world around them saturated in vivid hues as if looking through vibrantly tinted spectacles,” West said in a press release. “I can’t wait to see the photos people share on social media of their experience with the artwork.”

Music videos and the sun were two major inspirations for her in creating the piece. She hopes it’ll help visitors see their city in a new way, she said, encouraging them to notice things they might not normally see. 

Indeed, it’s a bit like seeing the city through rose-colored (or jade-colored or aqua-colored) glasses. 

The city's skyscrapers as seen through a transparent pink panel.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan | Through rose-colored glasses.

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