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38. Because We’re Highly Receptive to Bold, Brilliant, Mildly Lunatic Public Art

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In the post–Central Park Gates age, New York has become a giant canvas on which artists may realize their wackiest dreams. This year, Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls generated an estimated $69 million for the city (while only damaging a few salt-water-phobic trees). Zaha Hadid touched down her Chanel spaceship in Central Park. And David Byrne turned the Battery Maritime Building into an instrument. And that’s just a smattering of 2008’s public-art offerings. Our appetites whetted, we asked artists around the world to propose projects for ’09.


Night Stars by Sung Hwan Kim.  

1. “New York has lost sight of its stars,” says Kim, who was born in Seoul and works here. His response to light pollution: launching hundreds of black hot-air balloons with lightbulbs attached. The artificial stars will catch different wind currents and spread across the five boroughs. The balloons will also carry speakers broadcasting the sound of human voices.


Geosphere New York, by Laurent Grasso.  

2. This Paris-based artist’s neon installation Infinite Light is currently on view at the Hunter College overpass on Lexington Avenue. Here, Grasso proposes installing on the roof of the MetLife Building a slowly rotating geodesic sphere (looking very much like a disco ball)—“an artificial sun that turns and reflects on places where light never arrives.”


Pinball, by Megumi Matsubara/Assistant.  

3. Matsubara, one-half of the Tokyo-based art collective Assistant, proposes installing multiple large balloons to block the streets of Manhattan. Some will be on the ground diverting traffic, others floating in the sky, squeezed between buildings.


Open Water, by Assocreation.  

4. This Viennese collective proposes installing a series of rusty Dumpsters in streetside parking downtown. The insides will be painted a suburban-swimming-pool blue and filled with water.


Moon Ride, by Assocreation.  

5. Assocreation’s second installation would be an artificial moon (an enormous balloon) above Washington Square Park. The moon’s light would be powered by cyclists who plug their bikes into a generator—the harder the crowd cycles, the brighter the moon shines.


Air Bridge, by Hiroi Ariyama/Assistant.  

6. Ariyama, from Assistant, proposes replacing sections of the Manhattan Bridge with glass. From afar, the bridge will look fragmented. “Drivers,” he says, “will feel frightened every time they need to pass.”


Silent Pavilion, by Doug Aitken.   

7. Designed as “an observation deck to the realness of the present,” Aitken’s Silent Pavilion would be installed in different configurations and various locations. Interior sounds would be completely eliminated, and visitors would be invited to view the bustle of the city with “a new sense of awareness and calmness, coupled with a heightened insecurity.”


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