One of my favorite things about the High Line is the presence of public art throughout the year, in every season and in every form, media, and style. Friends of the High Line committed itself from the very beginning to introducing the work of new artists as well as established ones, and the program — first run by Lauren Ross and today by Cecilia Alemani — has won awards and immense popularity from visitors. The neighborhood the park traverses has long been a vibrant center of the arts, with visionary institutions — The Kitchen, Dia Art Foundation, Printed Matter, Exit Art — as well as hundreds (more than 400 at last official count) of commercial art galleries. The Whitney is building a new home, designed by Renzo Piano, at the southern end of the High Line, and Dia is constructing a large new exhibit space on 22nd Street. When those two projects are completed, the High Line’s neighborhood will arguably be the most important concentration of contemporary art in the United States.
The influence of the High Line’s art program will soon be visible in a new venue. On Mother’s Day the luxury rental complex known as Ten23, between 22nd & 23rd Street on Tenth Avenue, will install a piece of sculpture by the artist Charlie Hewitt. Called “Urban Rattle,” the work will stand some 20′ high in the center of the building’s patio, just below and on the eastern edge of the park. Hewitt is an American artist (born 1946) whose work includes paintings, sculpture, engraving, woodcuts, print-making and other media. His work has been acquired for collections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Whitney, Brooklyn Museum, New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.
Emily Santangelo, the art consultant who arranged the project with Equity Residential, the building’s owner, describes it as “the first privately commissioned monumental sculpture to directly address the High Line and its community of visitors.” She says that Hewitt considers his work to be “doodles in steel,” and describes “Urban Rattle” as “playful and serious at the same time.” This seems a perfect combination, as the work will hover over the High Line’s lawn, a place of mixed use where children run, leap, and often screech with joy while adults read or engage in quiet conversation.
If you’d like to watch the installation, it will take place over the weekend, beginning on Saturday, May 12 and ending on Sunday afternoon. I’m told that the members of the FDNY’s (controversial) EMT station under the High Line will be lending a hand as the steel structure is unloaded and carried up to the patio.
As readers of this blog know, I documented the progress of Ten23 for almost three years as I was writing about the construction of section two of the High Line. The lawn — and the apartment complex — appear just outside my window, and were built in tandem. Photos of Hewitt’s piece will follow in a week or so. Meantime, here’s what it looks like today: