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Battery Park City Authority Presents “Pioneers of Public Art, New York in the 1980s and 1990s”

In the 1960s the Hudson River coastline below Chambers Street was the site of deserted and dilapidated docks. As the landfill that would be developed into a new neighborhood — Battery Park City, consisting of housing, parks, and retail and office spaces — the Battery Park City Authority began commissioning mid-career New York artists to help transform the emerging area into a showcase for new public art in new public space. This is their story.

Pioneers of Public Art artists Mary Miss and Ned Smyth

Few contemporary artists have had access to wide-open spaces in Manhattan, or breathtaking riverfront locations as the canvas for their visions; fewer still have had such impact and lasting influence as Mary Miss, Ned Smyth, R.M. Fischer, Siah Armajani, Tom Otterness, and Martin Puryear. Hear pioneers of public art Mary Miss, Ned Smyth, and R.M. Fischer discuss the freedom and challenges they encountered, and the often-hands-on solutions they devised while working on new land in lower Manhattan. Their monumental installations “South Cove”, “Upper Room”, and “Rector Gate” remain as popular and influential now as they were when the artists broke ground nearly 40 years ago.

Pioneers of Public Art, New York in the 1980s and 1990s continues Battery Park City Authority’s ongoing legacy as a world-class destination to experience the art of our time – always free and fully accessible to all. Our goal is to welcome, inspire, and engage diverse communities to connect with the exceptional artistic talent that is always on view in Battery Park City.

The Public Art collection in Battery Park City includes work by Ned Smyth (1987), Siah Armajani (1988), Richard Artschwager (1988), Scott Burton (1988), R.M. Fischer (1988), Mary Miss (1988), Tom Otterness (1992), Demetri Porphyrios (1992), Jim Dine (1993), Martin Puryear (1995), Louise Bourgeois (1995), Tony Cragg (1996), Ugo Attardi (1997), Brian Tolle (2002), Thierry Noir (2004), Ann Hamilton and Michael Mercil (2005), Autumn Ewalt and Dharmesh Patel (2019), Gianni and Jill Biagi (2020), and Segundo Cardona and Antonio Martorell (2021).

Battery Park City Authority also manages a temporary public art program that has presented artwork by Agnes Denes, Beverley Pepper, Roy Lichtenstein, Tyrone Mitchell, Muna Malik, Mildred Howard, Shuli Sade, and other artists. The current installation on display, James Yaya Hough’s “Justice Reflected,” (2022) is presented in partnership with the Art for Justice Fund.

Pioneers of Public Art, New York in the 1980s and 1990s will take place on January 10, 2024, at 6:30pm (EST) at 6 River Terrace in New York City. The event is free, and RSVPs are encouraged.

Visit bpca.ny.gov for more information and to see videos about the art and artists.

Public Art on Video

Image taken at night of Mary Miss’s “South Cove” (1988)

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