Outdoor Art on The High Line

Art Scene

Outdoor Art on The High Line

New York City’s above ground park, the High Line, is one of the most visited sites in the city. On any given day, people from all over the world, as well as native New Yorkers, file along the park’s central path heading uptown and down. Built on the abandoned remains of railway tracks, the High Line offers city views and options for relaxation in quiet alcoves with benches and chaise lounges. For those with an inquisitive eye, the presence of contemporary art elegantly situated within the park’s landscaped woodlands, thickets, prairies and meadows is increasingly apparent.

Mariechen Danz, The Dig of No Body (soil sample), 2011/2018. Part of Agora,a High Line Commission. On view April 2018 – March 2019. Photo by Timothy Schenck

The naturalistic plant design of the 1.5-mile-long park features an abundance of flowers, trees and bushes that bloom with the seasons. They are works of art in and of themselves; so much so that visitors may overlook the myriad of contemporary art installations. However, The High Line Art program offers a series of commissioned artworks and performances that can amplify the experience of public outdoor space in unexpected ways. For example, Forgiving Change, by Timur Si-Qin, features aluminum casts of burned tree branches from the Pepperwood Preserve, one of several sites on the West Coast of the United States that suffered from wildfires in 2017.

Timur Si-Qin, Forgiving Change, 2018. Part of Agora, a High Line Commission. On view April 2018 – March 2019. Photo by Timothy Schenck

The landscaped paths are dense with varied vegetation in summer – surreal trees with large leaves or a fuzzy mauve flowering plant come to mind. Unusual plantings like these prepare viewers to keep an open mind as they encounter artworks that range from whimsical to political. Anchored by the new Whitney Museum at 12th Street, the park winds its way up to 34th street and the emerging Hudson Yards neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan.

Maria Thereza Alves, A Ballast Flora Garden: High Line, 2018. Part of Agora,a High Line Commission. On view April 2018 – March 2019. Photo by Timothy Schenck

Buildings, both new construction and old, abut the path, including a stunning curved high-rise near 28th Street by the late Zaha Hadid. Close by, at 22nd Street on the side of a building, Berlin-based artist Dorothy Iannone created a large-scale mural installation of three colorful Statues of Liberty with the words, “I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door.” The words are taken from the final line of a poem, “The New Colossus,”  by Emma Lazarus, an ode to freedom, immigration and the Statue of Liberty.                                                                       

Pope.L, chmera, 2018. Part of Agora, a High Line Commission. On view April 2018 – March 2019. Photo by Timothy Schenck

For visitors who decide to take a stroll at night, a handful of works feature contemporary art that uses neon lights and text; including work by the provocative artist, Pope.L, who engages language, sculpture and race in his work chmera, installed near 14th Street. Both Pope.L and Si-Qin’s work are part of the group exhibition, Agora, which explores ideas around art in public space. The collection takes its name from the Greek word, which refers to the square—a public gathering area where commercial, artistic, political, and spiritual life unfolded in ancient cities like Athens. To this end, The High Line continues to offer a lushly green natural respite from the concrete sidewalks and structures of city life, while also embracing the life of the mind, the social reality of city dwellers, and the Chelsea neighborhood’s arts district that runs just below the former elevated railway turned urban oasis.