These Interactive Public Sculptures Are NYC’s Hidden Gems

Where you can walk & talk the art.

View_of_Manhattan_Bridge Michael Yamaoka
Jetset Times SHOP/Michael Yamaoka

When one thinks of sculptures in New York, it’s usually about the Statue of Liberty and the imposing Charging Bull of Wall Street. But the city has always been a proud supporter of the arts, with both permanent and temporary projects taking up shop in various corners. Below is a list of five sculptures that ask observers to interact in order to fully experience the work of art.

1. Alamo by Bernard Rosenthal

Where? Astor Place

1-alamo-cube-nyc
Flickr/Scott Beale

One of the more iconic sculptures in downtown Manhattan, the “Astor Place Cube” – formally known as the Alamo – is in a clearing amidst a busy intersection. On a plinth where visitors often sit for a quick break, this sculpture has a secret known only to locals. It spins. The cube sits on a vertical axis that can be manipulated with some good ol’ elbow grease. Although it can be slowly turned by one person, several people can manage to obtain some speed. The sculpture was originally a temporary art project, but locals grew attached and petitioned for it to remain. It is now a landmark of the East Village.

2. Adam and Eve by Fernando Botero

Where? Time Warner Center

2-adam-nyc
Flickr/Scott Beale

These two large sculptures face each other in the main lobby of the Time Warner Center, in Columbus Circle just outside of Central Park. As per Botero’s signature style, they are bubble figured exaggerations of idealized corpulent figures. Unfortunately and unintentionally, Adam’s genitals are at eye level, which has encouraged some…touching over the years. The sculpture’s member is often held or touched by tourists for photo opportunities and is now wiped of its original patina and appears gold. The center regularly hires a conservator to re-apply the patina, but it is quickly wiped off by overeager visitors.

3. OY/YO by Deborah Kass

Where? Brooklyn Bridge Park

3-oy-yo-nyc
Flickr/leo gonzales

This recent sculpture is subjective to one’s location. Sitting on the banks of Brooklyn Bridge Park, this is a welcoming figure on the border of two boroughs. From one direction, it spells YO, or “I am” in Spanish. In the other, “OY,” or a Yiddish expression for woe or dismay. A common trope in Kass’s work, the dichotomy is representative of the multicultural identity of New York City. Kass meant to highlight not just two cultures but the overall melting pot that makes up our wonderful city.

4. Brushstroke Group by Roy Lichtenstein

Where? Pennsylvania Station

needle-threading-a-button-with-fashion-walk-nyc
Photo/Danielle Parga

Another recent acquisition to the Big Apple, and also another changing experience as it is circumnavigated, is Brushstroke Group  – one of many monumental sculptures made by Lichtenstein. As one of the popular artists from New York’s 1960’s art scene, Lichtenstein was a contemporary of Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. Lichtenstein is mostly known for his comic book paintings done with strict dark outlines, one which recently broke records by selling for $95 million dollars at a 2015 Christie’s auction. But his sculptures are also impressive. They attempt to mimic flatness yet are manipulated by the visitor’s eye as they walk around the artwork.

5. Needle Threading a Button with Fashion Walk

Where? 39th and 7th Ave

5-needle-nyc
Flickr/Wally Gobetz

This is technically two sculptures with a Walk of Fame, commemorating the historic Garment District of Manhattan. The first is the imposing 31ft tall Needle Threading a Button by The Pentagon Architectural Group. It is the pin (pun intended!) of the Garment District. A bronze by Judith Weller is below the needle, depicting a garment worker sewing. The figure, bent over his work with a visible yarmulke, was inspired by the artist’s father, a Jewish immigrant who worked in the district. Follow the steps and you will encounter the Fashion Walk of Fame. These 28 plaques embedded in the sidewalk commemorate accomplished American fashion designers. Each designer has been picked by a panel since 2000. The plaques have a small outline of the designer’s signature look, along with a blurb about their style.

Danielle Parga

Contributor

Danielle is a New Yorker, Yankees fan and loves to jaywalk. She travels extensively and constantly looking for the Chupacabra. She enjoys "teatime" with her Kiwi life partner, instead of "Dinnertime."

Jetset Times in your inbox

Sign-up for our newsletter

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy and European users agree to the data transfer policy.