While it’s certainly tempting to seek refuge from the summer heat in air conditioned galleries and museums, it’s worth asking oneself: is a summer spent entirely indoors a summer spent at all? How will you truly measure the wearing days of winter without that gradually disappearing tan line? Luckily, we rounded up seven incredibly cool (and free) public works of art around NYC that are worth breaking a sweat over this summer. Time to soak up some rays, and some culture!
HOT DOG BUS
Brooklyn Bridge Park (Pier 1 on Saturdays and Pier 5 on Sundays)
Want a free hot dog? Austrian artist Erwin Wurm is giving out 50,000 of them out of an engorged VW Microbus turned food truck every weekend from noon to 6pm this summer (the artist won’t actually be the one handing out the franks, but you know… in spirit). Keeping in line with the artists practice of using audience participation and finding ways to expand the definitions of “sculpture,” Hot Dog Bus is an ostensibly entertaining and convivial experience that invites its participants to reflect on the ways our consumption of this hot dog is, effectually, turning us all into sculptors, shaping and forming the mass of our own bodies. Meanwhile, the modified, marigold-yellow Volkswagon sits contentedly on the pier, a somewhat morbid reminder of our protuberant end potentials. Luckily, participants are limited to one weiner each.
Originally installed by Kusama in 1966 at an unofficial exhibition at the 33rd Venice Biennale, the 1,500 mirrored stainless steel spheres that make up Narcissus Garden are now on view in the industrial abandoned train garage at Fort Tilden—a far departure from the lush lawns of its first iteration in Venice. While initially conceived as a critique of contemporary art’s commercialization, Narcissus Garden’s new context reflects on Fort Tilden’s military-industrial history, as well as the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. The third part of the free public art festival, “Rockaway!”, the work is presented by Rockaway Artists Alliance, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, and Bloomberg Philanthropies in the Gateway National Recreation Area at Fort Tilden. The installation is open Friday through Sunday from 12:00 - 6:00 p.m. from July 1st to September 3rd and, like all installations Kusama, awaits your FOMO-inducing selfies.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6: July 1 — August 12
Hudson River Park, Pier 25: August 13 — September 23
Hudson River Park, Pier 66a: September 24 — May 12
If you’re looking for a free boat ride but have ridden the Staten Island Ferry ad nauseum, you’re in luck—there’s a new boat in town! Or rather, a very old boat with a brand new look. Commemorating a century since the end of World War I, multimedia artist Tauba Auerbach has given the historic John J. Harvey Fireboat a makeover that is literally dazzling. Covered completely in a red and white pattern reminiscent of water peeling away in a ship’s wake, Auerbach’s tripped out design takes its reference from British marine artist Norman Wilkinson’s dazzle ships from 1917. Painted using Cubist, Futurist, and Vorticist techniques, dazzle ships were designed to confuse and disorient enemy combatants rather than hide from them and were described as “a futurist’s bad dream,” and “a floating art museum” by journalists of their time. This rich history, combined with Auerbach’s own practice and aesthetic research on patterns and waves makes Flow Separation an experience that refreshes historically, metaphorically, and physically. On board visiting hours are between noon and 4pm on Saturdays, and from 3pm to 7pm on Sundays. Tickets for 45-minute boat trips are available at PublicArtFund.org and Fireboat.org.
So you think you’re hip to what’s new in the art world because you’ve had a few virtual reality experiences—but have you tried a mixed reality installation? Located right in the middle of all the bustling chaos that is Times Square, multimedia artist Mel Chin’s Unmoored is a kind of gesamtkunstwerk for our ultra-new media landscape. Combining a large-scale animatronic sculpture that is at once the skeletal remains of a giant marine mammal and an old wooden shipwreck with an augmented reality app experience (downloadable on your smartphone), Mel Chin’s ambitious installation presents New York City in the aftermath of an apocalypse, submerged in water. In Chin’s own words, Unmoored doesn’t necessarily tell us anything new about the realities or effects of climate change. Instead, it asks, “How will you rise?” You can immerse yourself in this post-apocalyptic inquiry through September 5th.
Yinka Shonibare MBE
Doris C. Freedman Plaza
In British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare’s south Central Park sculpture, the concept of wind is the driving force behind a poignant metaphor for identity. The monumental fiberglass work, bathed in patterns reminiscent of West African textiles, is a paradox, taking on the task of physically manifesting the invisible. This, according to Shonibare, is exactly how identity is formed. Having grown up between England and Nigeria, the artist regards his own person as the “product of complex and layered relationships forged by centuries of global trade, migration, politics, and cultural exchange.” His identity, like Wind Sculpture, is the manifested form of a multitude of invisible forces, rendering it into being. The work will be on view until October 14th.
City Hall Park
Though New York-based artist B. Wurtz has been creating his idiosyncratic found object sculptures for the past 50 years, his upcoming series, Kitchen Trees, will be his very first public commission. Made entirely of common household kitchenware such as colanders, pots, and pans, and bearing artificial fruit on its cascading artificial branches, Wurtz’s trees playfully and subtly remind its audience of the value of the quotidien object and on recycling. The five sculptures are set to be unveiled on August 7th and will be around until December 7th, giving you plenty of time to take shelter under these curious fake plastic trees.