new york public art

The 58-story 500 Fifth Avenue tower (Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, 1931). Fifth Avenue at northwest corner of 42nd Street. View looking northwest from Fifth Avenue and 39th Street showing the New York Public Library. Spring 1931.

Photo: Unknown.

Source: “New York Illustrated”. New York. Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co. 1938.

Title: Jogar Capoëra, ou danse de la guerre.

Description: Lithograph of Afro-Brazilians performing capoeira dance*. From the Schomburg Photographs and Prints Division (Print Collection - South America - Brazil).

Reference: SCPR 07.23.067

Source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

Note: danse de la guerre literally translates (from French) as “war dance”.

* This is incorrect. Capoeira is not a dance. It is a martial art that was carefully developed and designed specifically to look like a dance because it was illegal for slaves to learn how to fight. 

In true embodiment of the Brazilian spirit, slaves (as I’ve explained before) crafted a fighting style that uses music and in which students do not make contact with each other (except for advanced acrobatic moves that require using another person as a springboard or something of the sort) in order to learn how to fight without getting in trouble.

Art Spiegelman is the author and illustrator of Maus, the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.  He came to the New York Public Library in the fall of 2016 to discuss the republication of Si Lewen’s wordless book, The Parade. For this week of the New York Public Library Podcast, we’re proud to present Art Spiegelman on how he sees himself, becoming a devotee to another artist, and the artist after art. Listen here.


Crack is Wack X 1986

This mural on a handball court at 128th Street and 2nd Avenue in East Harlem was inspired by the crack epidemic and its effect on New York City. It was created as a warning and was initially executed independently without permission. Facing possible jail time the mural caught the attention of the NY Post which ran an article on it and Haring gained the public’s support. He ended up being fined only $100. The mural was soon vandalized so a worker in the Parks Department painted over it without permission. Haring was then asked to paint the mural again. The mural was immediately put under the protection and jurisdiction of the City Department of Parks and still exists.

Mike Nelson’s group of sculptures, Untitled (public sculpture for a redundant space), is being de-installed next week!

Nelson creates landscapes of sculptures from discarded materials, arranged together to suggest a narrative of objects one might find along the side of a highway or in an abandoned campground. The artist’s sculptural work for the High Line is made from rubble from the numerous development sites through which the High Line passes. The work straddles an uneasy confusion of land art and empathetic figurative sculpture.