New York City’s cultural calendar kicks into full swing in May, starting with the Met Gala and immediately followed by multiple consecutive art fairs. Coinciding with these ticketed happenings are seven unique – and free – temporary public art projects that will take you from Queens to Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Rose B. Simpson
Madison Square Park and Inwood Hill Park

Through September 22, 2024

Known for ceramic sculptures that often take the shape of towering, totemic figures, Rose B. Simpson comes from a matrilineal lineage of Santa Clara Pueblo ceramic artists. Her practice is informed by Indigenous traditions and reflects upon ancestral and contemporary relationships. This is explored in her public exhibition ‘Seed’, unfolding at two public parks on Lenapehoking territory, the homelands of the Lenape people.

At Madison Square Park, seven sentinels convene in a circle. Each of the 5.5-meter-tall abstract guardian figures – without limbs and with bodies made up of angular, geometric sheets of steel – has two bronze faces, one looking outward and the other looking in, watching over a central female figure intimately embracing herself. This installation speaks to the communal act of gathering in public spaces as well as collective support by way of bearing witness. Farther north, in Inwood Hill Park, two 2.5-meter-tall sentinels face opposite directions: One toward the park’s ancient woods and the other toward the Hudson River. Together, they acknowledge the rich Native histories of Lenape presence and act as reminders of settler violence.

The High Line Plinth proposals
Coach Passage, on the High Line at 30th Street

Through June 2024

Located on a raised former railway, the High Line has flourished as a public park with its own dedicated art program – a highlight of which is the Plinth commission. Every 18 months, a contemporary artist unveils a large-scale, site-specific sculpture in the center of a piazza known as the Spur. Twelve proposals have been shortlisted for the fifth and sixth High Line Plinth commissions, to be installed in 2026 and 2027 respectively. Sculptural maquettes of these projects are now on display near the Spur in the Coach Passage. Renowned artists from five continents – including Natalie Ball, Sammy Baloji, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Camille Henrot, and Mire Lee – showcase a range of ideas and materials. Sammy Baloji’s proposal, Listen Closely: You’ll Hear Their Feet Beating Out and Beating Out, is an oversized horn that reflects upon musical histories of the American South, while Lee’s Leaking Machine proposes an assemblage of cans, metal wires, and glass to create a communal dreamcatcher. Other submissions explore sacred geometry, reincarnation, and collective memory, while some incorporate interactive elements, such as Candice Lin’s proposal for a Cat-Demon Protector sculpture, which includes an AR component that engages viewers with an animation of the ‘cat-demon’ teaching qigong.

‘Hope Against Hope’
Center for Art, Research and Alliances and New York City AIDS Memorial
May 4–5, 2024

The Center for Art, Research and Alliances (CARA) is currently hosting a joint exhibition by Ines Doujak and Paloma Contreras Lomas, addressing topics such as biopolitics and gendered violence in expansive ways. Parallel to the show, the artists have conceived a 2-day public program, beginning with a parade led by Doujak and co-presented with the New York City AIDS Memorial. The parade will see Doujak’s animated costumes and vibrant sculptures make a procession from CARA to the AIDS Memorial in St. Vincent’s Triangle, accompanied by Batalá New York, an all-women, Black-led, percussion ensemble. Titled ‘Hope Against Hope’, the event will honor lives lost to AIDS as well as celebrate environmental activists and women land defenders. The rest of the program will bring the audience together through interdisciplinary performances, conversations, and food. Those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP on CARA’s website.

Huma Bhabha
‘Before The End’
Pier 3 Greenway Terrace, Brooklyn Bridge Park

April 30 – March 9, 2025

For her new commission for the Public Art Fund, Pakistani-American artist Huma Bhabha has created four monumental painted and patinated bronze sculptures. Cast from sculpted cork and fragments of skulls, the mysterious figures resemble effigies carved into tombstones. Unlike tombs, however, here they stand open to the sky above, engaging with mythologies surrounding humankind as well as changing civilizations and concepts of geological time. The apocalyptic title of the exhibition, ‘Before The End’, is borrowed from the writings of Vincent of Beauvais (c.1184–1264), who authored a major encyclopedia summarizing the knowledge of natural history in the Middle Ages. Applied to this show, it acts as an extension of Bhabha’s explorations at the intersections of science fiction, abstraction, and horror.

Clifford Prince King
‘Let me know when you get home’
JCDecaux bus shelters and newsstands
Through May 26, 2024

Since February, newsstands and 330 JCDecaux bus shelters across New York City – as well as Chicago and Boston – have been adorned with images by self-taught photographer and filmmaker Clifford Prince King. The 13 photographs comprising ‘Let me know when you get home’ capture tender moments of companionship and self-exploration in domestic spaces and natural landscapes, reflecting upon King’s experience as a Queer Black man. In early departure (2023), for example, a closely framed farewell note expresses a lasting remembrance, suggesting a past encounter of love and friendship, however brief. Presenting such photographs in places typically reserved for advertisements offers unexpected, cinematic moments of intimacy – a stark contrast to the anonymous experiences typical of urban places.

Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw
Hot Dog in the City
Times Square
April 30 – June 13, 2024

Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw are known for their peculiar, often hilarious and outrageously enlarged, transformations of ordinary objects, ranging from bathroom sinks to hamburgers and sundaes. Their new project – a 20-meter-long animatronic hot dog – tops the record for the world’s largest hot dog sculpture. But despite its undeniably playful and celebratory spirit (it is even activated by hydraulics and bursts of confetti every day at noon), Hot Dog in the City
also aims to be subversive, acting as a site for talks, performances, and political debate. The accompanying public program ranges from a hotdog eating contest and a virtual election for the best hot dog condiment to a town hall summit bringing together food historians, writers, and activists to unpack conversations around consumption and contemporary culture.

David Huang
‘Hands Toward the Universe’
Noguchi Museum
May 2024 – May 2025

The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum launched an open call in 2021 for emerging Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) artists in New York to submit project proposals for public banners to raise awareness against the escalating violence against AAPI communities in the city. For the third edition of what is now known as the Artist Banners program, local artists were invited to respond specifically to the theme of ‘labor and love.’ Three projects by Jacqueline Qiu, Derek Zheng, David Huang were shortlisted, with Huang’s submission ultimately selected. The illustrator’s six banners, collectively titled ‘Hands Toward the Universe’, highlight the intimate process of making across mediums such as painting, sculpture, and ceramics. Set to hang from the museum’s façade for a year, Huang’s designs are endearingly whimsical in their colors and textures, conveying a sense of joy.

Concurrent to the display of Huang’s banners, each of the three shortlisted artists will lead a public program in collaboration with the museum’s education department during free-admission days to provide opportunities for extended dialogs between the artists and the local community.

Credits and Captions

Annette An-Jen Liu is a Taiwanese writer and curator working between Taipei and New York City. Her writing can be found in ArtAsiaPacific, Art Monthly Australasia, Magnum Photos, Ocula, and Musée Magazine, among others. She is a 2023 recipient of the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writer Grant and manages projects at Cai Studio.

Caption for top image: Clifford Prince King, March Hot Cocoa Event, in partnership with Lips Cafe, GREER Chicago and the New York Transit Museum. Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY. Photograph by Filip Wolak.

Published on April 29, 2024.