From Bernard Rosenthal’s “Alamo (The Cube)” in Astor Place to Arturo Di Modica’s bull on Wall Street, public art in New York City is a navigational tool and a meeting place. Currently, an art project is exploring this idea with 80 signs plotted through Manhattan for 46 pieces of public art, both sculptural installations and those less traditionally defined like the ghost bikes and the stunning clock at the center of Grand Central Terminal.
Art within One Mile: The Route from Central Park to Brooklyn Bridge by artist Bundith Phunsombatlert was installed for the New York City Department of Transportation’s August summer streets, but will remain in the city through September. The signs are bright yellow and attached to light poles around Park Avenue from Central Park down through Lafayette Street, with from Tony Smith’s “Tau” 1965 the furthest north on the Upper East Side and Jan Mun’s “BeeVillage” (2013) in Battery Park holding it down as a southern anchor. Between there’s iconic works like Pablo Picasso and Carl Nesjar’s “Bust of Sylvette” from 1968 at the Silver Towers, as well as those you could easily miss like Sylvie Fleury’s temporary “After Hours 2: Miniskirts Are Back” (2013) roll gate painting on the Bowery.
All you get from each sign is an illustration in black of the art, an arrow, and a distance, and the rest is up to you (although there is a map online you can use). Phunsombatlert, who is originally from Bangkok, explained to the Wall Street Journal that he used public art to make his way around the streets when he first moved here. He’s currently working on Wayfinding: 100 NYC Public Sculptures with support from New York City Parks & Recreation, which he developed at Socrates Sculpture Park. That project will include 100 sculptures across the boroughs and is expected to open in 2014. You can already view a map of them all on his website.
The project joins other public art navigational tools like the MTA’s Arts for Transit App and Percent for Art’s handy map. For now, keep an eye out as you wander Manhattan, and you may find yourself on another journey entirely keeping an eye out for a sculpture shaped like a gun with its barrel twisted or an enigmatic flock of birds. As Phunsombatlert states on his site:
“The project questions how a journey within a specific geographic sphere can be a work of art in and of itself.”
Art within One Mile: The Route from Central Park to Brooklyn Bridge by Bundith Phunsombatlert is installed in Manhattan through the end of September.