At the moment, the best outdoor public sculpture in New York is way over your head. Literally. Rachel Whiteread’s mysterious Water Tower, a translucent resin cast of an actual water tower, has sat atop a building on the northwest corner of West Broadway and Grand Street since last June. “It gives you the feeling of a whole new urban landscape,” says art writer Michael Brenson. Water Tower (which was commissioned by the Public Art Fund) is not the only neck-crane-worthy art in town. The 1995 installation of Alice Aycock’s exuberant .C.East River Roundabout, a swooping, roller-coaster-esque steel sculpture, transformed the roof of a former Sanitation Department garage at East 60th Street above the FDR Drive into a park pavilion. “It catches the light beautifully, and it activates and enlivens the space,” says Marian Griffiths, director of the Sculpture Center.
Even on the ground, it pays to keep your wits about you – amazingly, some people miss two of the city’s biggest and splashiest works, Mark di Suvero’s red-painted steel Joie De Vivre, at the Holland Tunnel exit near Canal and Varick Streets, and Dennis Oppenheim’s looming steel wedding rings, Engagement, on the traffic island at 23rd Street and Broadway (a favorite with cabdrivers, who seem to get the work’s irony immediately). But the hands-down ground-level favorite with kids and adults is Tom Otterness’s whimsical cast-bronze animal extravaganza The Real World (in Battery Park City’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Park).
Unfortunately, New York City’s worst outdoor sculpture is also impossible to miss: Mihail Chemiakin’s sixteen-breasted bronze sculpture, Cybble Goddess Of Fertility, alarming passersby outside the Mimi Fertz Gallery (Prince Street between Greene and Wooster Streets).