Top Five Displays of Modern Art in Battery Park City

A view of Battery Park City

From Atlas holding the world on his back in Rockefeller center, to the Charging Bull on Wall Street, New York is not shy about displaying public works of art. Even a district like Battery Park City, a relatively small community, has over 20 pieces of public artwork displayed in its parks. The following five pieces are the most thought-provoking pieces the district has to offer.

#1 Pylons: Martin Purear

Yin and Yang is the Chinese belief in natural dualities and how contrary forces give rise to each other. This belief is strongly represented in Pylons, created by artist Martin Puryear and located along the waterfront of Belvedere. Both these columns, which frame the sightline of the Winter Garden, are stainless steel and segmented into six columns. 

While one column is comprised of solid, angular geometric shapes, all of which face down, the other is an airy weave that extends toward the sky. Perhaps it is a representation of right-brained, emotional creativity, versus left-brained, logic. A more basic interpretation could more simply involve male against female, opposites that are made for each other. Despite their meanings, the two towers make a beautiful display when lit up at night.

#2 Eyes: Louise Bourgeois

When speaking about this piece, Louise Bourgeois said “eyes relate to seduction, flirtation, and voyeurism,” suggesting the nature of her artwork was to both make things visible, while keeping things hidden. Ideas are constantly metamorphosing in Bourgeois’s work however, and what one-day is a site of sight, can be a different interpretation the next. Some say the work is meant to be of the viewer, solely being a pair of eyes without outside influences, while others say it leads one to think they belong on the head of a giant, therefore an expression of imagination.

#3 Resonating Bodies: Tony Cragg

Located at the end of a tree-lined path at the entrance of Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park, Resonating Bodies consists of two giant bronze statues, which represent instruments. The two statues, one of which looks like a tuba and the other resembling a lute, display wave-like patterns on their surfaces. The concept is that every physical body, including the human body, is constantly exposed to forms of energy, be it light, sound, heat, gravity, or any other kind, which influences and shapes.

#4 The Real World: Tom Otterness

In a multifaceted composition, Otterness uses a collection of pieces to create a characature of “the real world,” for the real world to enjoy in Rockefeller Park. Through the use of cartoonish figures, the entire bustling society of the city is exemplified in form of people, pennies, and even a platypus (left). Exploding out of the fountain, are pennies of all sizes, being rolled away by comical figures. 

The park's pudgey figurines can be seen all over the park, whether climbing on tables or hanging off lamp posts. While playful and fun, there is a deeper meaning beneath otterness's work that tells a story about New York society. Stuggle, power, loss, fantasy, death, and humor are all relevant themes publicly beling displayed in Rockefeller Park.

#5 The Irish Hunger Memorial

This attraction, which also falls under the category of museums and memorials in Battery Park City, was designed to raise awareness of the struggles of the Irish Potato famine (1845-52), in which one and a half million Irish people perished. It is also meant to raise awareness of world hunger, an issue that remains present in modern times. Brought about in 2002 by the Battery Park City Conservancy, the memorial is located on the corner of Vesey Street and North End Ave.   

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