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Public Art in NYC: Asian Artists


Public Art in NYC: Asian Artists
Ai Weiwei Gilded Cage, 2017. Milled steel, paint. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio/ Frahm & Frahm. Photo: Ai Weiwei Studio


Recommended as the best season to visit New York City, autumn, dubbed “hotumn” this year, has provided the perfect weather for exploring the city’s bountiful offerings of public art.  Here we highlight Asian artists who made New York home for a time, with their public space works now on view in the Big Apple.

Ai Wei Wei’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is the artist’s largest public exhibition to date, addressing the global refugee crisis and commentary on the futility of borders as an instrument of political and social division, through 300+ installations engaging themes of fences, walls and territory. Presented by the Public Art Fund as part of their 40th anniversary, the work is also a personal homage of the artist to the city Ai first emigrated to in 1981 where he spent over a decade before returning to China. 

Ai Weiwei Gilded Cage, 2017. Milled steel, paint. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio/ Frahm & Frahm. Photo: Ai Weiwei Studio

One of three monumental works, Gilded Cage, is a series of turnstiles in a large birdcage structure at the south east corner of Central Park, gilded to “please [President Trump]”, whose home at Trump Tower is a short walk away.  The “cage” is an accessible exhibit, interwoven into the fabric of the city and its inhabitants, open to the sky and for public to walk-through.

Ai Weiwei Arch, 2017. Galvanized milled steel and mirror polished stainless steel. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio/ Frahm & Frahm. Photo: Jason Wyche

Another of Ai’s monumental public works is Arch at Washington Square Park, where the artist spent much of his time during the 1980’s. Arch fills most of the space beneath the marble arch at the entrance to the park, a steel cage pierced by the the silhouette of two figures referring to Marcel Duchamp’s 1937 design for the entrance of André Breton’s Paris art gallery, and as well acknowledging Duchamp’s 1917 late night ‘coup’ occupying the top of Washington Square Arch with fellow conspirators to declare a Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square, if only for a few hours.  Ai’s form of the two figures provides a more intimately scaled entry way welcoming visitors into the park, transforming the arch cage into a connecting element within the city fabric. 

See more here about Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

Do Ho Suh (b. 1962). Installation view 95 Horatio Street, 2017. Digital image on vinyl.Collection of the artist; courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York, and Victoria Miro, London. Photograph by Ronald Amstutz

A new work by artist Do Ho Suh, who emigrated from South Korea to New York, spending more than twenty years in the city, is on view as part of series of public art installations across from the Whitney Museum at the southern ending of the High Line public park, built on the elevated historical rail line on Manhattan’s West Side, in operation between 1934 and 1980. A site-specific work best viewed from the end of the High Line above street level, 95 Horatio Street allows one to imagine what the view would have looked like in the days when the elevated tracks ran through buildings directly connecting factories and warehouses, preventing street-level traffic below.  Suh’s work has explored the emotional significance of architectural space and its relationship to personal memory and the collapse of time which he has explored in various media, but most notably with his fabric full scale recreations and rubbings on paper of his NYC apartment.

Jean Shin, Elevated, 2016

Artist Jean Shin, also born in South Korea now living in Brooklyn, similarly works with notions of personal identity, often through castaway objects. She was one of four artists commissioned to provide a permanent installation for the Second Avenue Subway project.  The  63rd Street station features Shin’s work, Elevated, drawing on the city’s history of public transit, working with archival photographs of another set of above ground rail lines, this time the historic raised subway lines at 2nd and 3rd Avenues.  Reconfigured at each level of the station using different materials, she allows contemporary viewers to see themselves in the cityscape of the past and to mingle with the inhabitants of the 1940’s.

Yayoi Kusama, Large Pumpkin, 2014. Bronze with patina accens, 241 x 235 x 235 cm, edition #2/8. Installation view at Sky, 605 W42nd St, New York

Continuing on the global Yayoi Kusama craze, New York now has its first and only permanently sited public artwork by the obsessive Japanese artist.  Kusama lived in the city from 1957 to 1973 becoming a central figure of the New York avant-garde, creating her most seminal works including the first Infinity Net paintings, Accumulation soft fabric sculptures, Infinity Mirror installations, and performance art Happenings.  Housed in front of the luxury Sky residential tower on W42nd Street, the bronze polka dotted pumpkin weighs 2,668 pounds, and stands over 8 feet tall. It is one of the many works she has dedicated over the decades to the humble vegetable which Kusama is said to be enchanted by for their ‘charming and winsome form.’ 


Ai Wei Wei, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors runs until February 11, 2018.

Do Ho Suh, 95 Horatio Street is on show now. End date indeterminate.

Jean Shin, Elevation and Yayoi Kusama, Large Pumpkin are permanent installations. 

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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