Monday, August 22, 2011

seeking out the best in art and design: outdoor sculpture hopping in NYC with Richard Rabel


have i got a treat for you today, nicies!

it's with great pleasure that i welcome the fabulous art expert, design guru & delightfully charming soul, richard rabel, as guest blogger. richard's unsurpassed expertise in the world of things beautiful will just thrill you, and you'll want to rush over to follow his inspiring art & design finds on his magnificent blog: the modern sybarite.

so let's take a sculptural stroll around nyc. thanks so much, richard!

I’m thrilled to be a guest blogger for rikrak!  It’s  posts on art have always been insightful and so when I was asked to write a series of guest posting on art and design (my blog focuses on these), how could I refuse!!! Momma rikrak is the best.

Today’s post is the first of a series of 3 and focuses on the public garden sculptures around New York City.  The second posting will be on design shopping in SOHO and the third, shopping the NY auctions with the modern sybarite … so stay tuned!

Manhattan in the summer is wonderful and while the tourists swarm over Times Square, MOMA and Lady Liberty, the locals find respite in the shady gardens and parks around the city. What is super about NY is that through collaborations with a diverse group of arts organizations and artists, the City Parks Department brings to the public both experimental and traditional art in over 13 park locations.


(photo credit: Librado Romero/The New York Times)

My first stop is the Grand Army Plaza, across the street from the famed Plaza Hotel on 5th Avenue and 59th Street, where contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has replicated the 12 animal heads of the Chinese Zodiac.  The inspiration were the much smaller original 18th Century versions which functioned as a water clock fountain in Chinese Emperor Qianlong’s Imperial summer retreat and whose heads were ransacked by French and British troops in 1860.  The 12 gynormous animal heads are contemporary re-interpretations and so the artist is focusing attention to questions of national identity, looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the “fake” and the copy in relation to the original. These are so very cool and cannot be missed!


(photo credit: Bill Orcutt)
My second stop is the new and hip High-Line park, once elevated train tracks in the middle of the city built to alleviate ground traffic in the area and now a wonderful meandering park. The park extends from 10th avenue and 30th street all the way to Gansevoort and as you are walking above the street, you get a perspective of Manhattan like nothing you’ve experienced before.  On rooftops along Washington Street, between West 13th and Gansevoort Streets, the US artist Kim Beck presents 3 sculptures that resemble the skeletal frames behind street advertising billboards.  See if you can identify them.  When looking at them from the front, they have depth but it is when you move past them that you see they are just like theater props!


Moving along, I stopped by Union Square where, from the 1960s to the 80s, pop icon Andy Warhol commanded his Factory that produced his famous silkscreen paintings, films, music, books, and magazines.  So as an ode to Warhol, American artist Rob Pruitt created the Andy Monument located at the corner of Broadway and 17th street.  The 10-foot silver sculpture is the artist’s imagined Warhol dressed in Levi's 501s, Brooks Brothers blazer, a Polaroid camera around his neck and carrying a Medium Brown Bag from Bloomingdale's. Aside from the fact people are making this a makeshift memorial, the sculpture of Andy is quite amazing.

 (top image :: Rob Pruitt's Andy Monument : 
photo credit : James Ewing, Courtesy Public Art Fund )


(photo credit: Rebecca Bullene. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden)
From Union Square I took the subway to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to end the day away from people and in the solace of nature.  There, near the Magnolia Plaza and in a shady nook is Patrick Dougherty’s Natural History.  Part bee-hive, part imaginary castle, this sculpture brought a smile to my face… I had never seen anything like it!  Made from organic materials (sticks and twigs) the idea being that as time goes on, the material will continue to decay until the whole things collapses onto the ground it came from.

 I had spent a good day pounding the streets of NY and was happy to live in a city that supports public art …. and what a variety.  From the “traditional” art of Weiwei and Pruitt, to the more abstract sculpture of Beck and Dougherty, New York City has thankfully something for us all!

richard rabel


Based in New York City, Richard Rabel is consistently asked by his clients for his advice on art, design and decoration.  With this in mind he began providing his clients with livable, warm and unique interiors that reflect a 21st century lifestyle and aesthetic. He shares his aesthetic on his website/blog

Speaking several languages, having lived in seven countries and spanning a ten year career as a senior officer and specialist in a London-based international auction house as well as twenty years of art and design study and over thirty years of international travel, Richard has had access to the most extraordinarily exquisite spaces around the globe from San Francisco to Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires to Prague, Mexico City to Geneva, Istanbul to Hong Kong, Paris to New York all of which have cultivated his eye and contributed to defining his exacting taste and modern aesthetic.
what's your favourite outdoor sculpture? 
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  1. Here in Vancouver we have some phenomenal public art. My current favourites are The Birds at Olympic Village

    And I'm not alone!

    Enjoyed these finds!!

  2. oh that's fabulous, moira! i've heard they're quite a hit!

    thanks so much for your fabulous finds, richard! such a pleasure.

    i think the FIRST outdoor sculptures i really VIVIDLY remember loving would be noel harding's elevated wetlands in toronto. eternal gridlock on the don valley parkway met with these fabulous organic greened sculptures! love it!

    isn't public art a fabulous thing!

  3. Thanks RikRak for your interest in my professional and blogging life. I hope I measured to your expectations :-) It is my pleasure to post in such a wonderful blog.

  4. ah thanks, nicey!
    it's my great pleasure. so wonderful to read your fabulous finds


thanks so much for your comments, nicies!
it's a joy to read what everyone writes here.
thank you!