Made You Look! Art for Public Consumption


Detail, facade of the New Museum

2017 update: in this post, I mentioned the New Museum on The Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Today I had the pleasure of visiting the museum on the occasion of it’s 40th Anniversary.  I, for one, am glad that they have found a permanent home in this suitably eckeruc neighborhood and send all best wishes for another 40 years!



We New Yorkers can seem a jaded bunch.  We often wear masks of disinterest.  After all, isn’t it easier to feign sleepiness or intense interest in our phones while riding the subway than to subject ourselves to the life stories written on the faces of fellow travellers, busking musicians, candy sellers, or compellingly desperate panhandlers?  Wouldn’t it be too much to remove the blinders completely on a summer afternoon walk down 42nd Street, or to let in all the noise and activity encountered while running errands on Atlantic Avenue or Queens Boulevard?

Thankfully, at least for me, there are still sights that can stop me in my tracks.  One of these is what I like to think of as Art for Public Consumption.  This could be permanent commissioned art, temporary site-specific art, eye-catching graffiti, or the results of a partnership between a landlord or small business owner and a local artist.  I have featured examples of these in earlier posts- the art at Smorgasburg Coney Island, the Fata Morgana project in Madison Square Park and images of painted buildings near Thompkins Square Park.

Recently, while in Manhattan on an errand, I walked from the Prince Street subway stop to the intersection of Bowery and Houston.  I was stopped in my tracks three times during this ten minute stroll by arresting images.

First stop: 15 Prince Street, the exterior of the Quality Mending store (a clever reboot of an old storefront, now a clothing seller)

Art Wall 15 Prince

This triptych on canvas stands out boldly against a black wall.  For more information on the artists,Gigi Spratley and Jack Waltrip Li’l Beasties see:!art-wall/c1qpv

Then, in front of me like a strange daydream, I saw, for the first time, the New Museum building completed in 2007.  While I am definitely not a fan of minimalist architecture, the whimsy of the building’s 30 foot appendage caught my eye.  That’s right people- it’s a boat.  In case you’re wondering, we are in the middle of Manhattan- not near the water!

2015-06-20 21.26.43

For more, see:

Then, I turned left on the Bowery, passing the museum, to head north to Houston Street.  Here I was stopped again, by a city-block long pastiche consisting of a giant hulk-baby flanked on all sides by logos and familiar American images wittily re-interpreted to make political statements.

Fans of public art like myself should check this spot regularly, on the north side of the intersection of Bowery and Houston, as the land’s owners have reserved this spot for the projects by well-known artists like this one.  For more on this piece, by artist Ron English, see:

It certainly was an interesting ten-minute stroll through the Lower East Side that day.  Being a Brooklynite, before I wrap this post up, I want to provide two excellent examples of Art for Public Consumption in my own borough.

The first photo was taken last summer, near the waterfront in DUMBO/Vinegar Hill. This spray painted portrait held my attention for several minutes.

Street Art Portrait

Imagine this, around a corner from multi-million dollar lofts!

The final image I’ll leave you with today was taken in DUMBO in March of this year.  It may no longer be there, since replaced by the latest project.  I recognized it immediately as the work of an artist known as CAM that has been very active in DUMBO for years.  What struck me most about this particular piece was its scale, and the fact that it adorned a wall that I had never noticed before; a wall that serves only to support traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens expressway.

Dumbo Public Art OWLS

For more about Dumbo Art Walls and CAM:

I hope to be stopped in my tracks again soon by some arresting public art.

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