The First Five Years of High Line Art
Friends of the High Line founded High Line Art in 2009 with the opening of the first section of the High Line. The mission of High Line Art is to present a wide array of artwork including site-specific commissions, exhibitions, performances, video programs, and a series of billboard interventions. We invite artists to think of creative ways to engage with the uniqueness of the architecture, history, and design of the High Line and to foster a productive dialogue with the surrounding neighborhood and urban landscape. Since 2011, High Line Art has been curated by Cecilia Alemani. Previously, the program was curated by Lauren Ross.
Since 2009, High Line Art has worked with over 120 artists from around the world, including up-and-coming artists as well as mid-career and established artists. We have presented more than 22 commissions; 21 videos on High Line Channels 14 and 22; 18 billboards; and 14 performances.
High Line Art debuted in 2009 with The River That Flows Both Ways, an installation by Spencer Finch that was presented in partnership with Creative Time. Inspired by the Hudson River, the artist documented a 700-minute journey on the river in a single day. The title is a translation of Muhheakantuck, the Native American name for the Hudson River, referring to the river’s natural flow in two directions. Installed in the Chelsea Market Passage, Finch’s work has become an iconic part of High Line Art and is still on view today.
Some of the highlights from High Line Art’s first five years include New York-based artist Sarah Sze’s beloved Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat), which played with the High Line’s architecture and sight lines, acting as a bird, butterfly, and insect observatory, with perches, feeding spots, and birdbaths throughout. The work was on view from 2011 to 2012.
Our first group exhibition, Lilliput, was on view from 2012 to 2013 and featured miniature sculptures by six international artists. The show reflected on the traditional role of public art by offering a counterbalance to the monumental scale often employed for plaza sculptures and other outdoor installations in public spaces. One of the most popular sculptures was Tomoaki Suzuki’s Carson, a diminutive bronze sculpture based on a friend of the artist.
High Line Art’s largest commission to date was Broken Bridge II by West African artist El Anatsui. A monumental tapestry made of pressed tin and mirrors, the artwork was installed on the side of a building creating a stunning visual of wave-like patterns and folds, reflecting the surrounding landscape of the High Line and the fabric of the city. Measuring at 37 feet high by 157 feet long, the work was on view from 2012 to 2013.
One of the most ambitious and unique commissions was by New York-based artist Carol Bove. Titled Caterpillar, the work consisted of seven abstract sculptures installed within the wild landscape on the High Line at the Rail Yards, the third and northernmost section of the High Line still closed to the public. Bove’s sculptures were only viewable by public tours. Over the course of 2013 to 2014, High Line rangers conducted over 500 public tours to over 15,000 visitors.
This past spring we installed the first public art commission in New York by the legendary artist Ed Ruscha. Hand-painted on the side of a building, Honey, I Twisted Through More Damn Traffic Today is based on a pastel drawing of the same name from 1977. The mural will be on view through May 2015.
Some of our most popular artworks have been our series of High Line Billboards, located on the Edison ParkFast billboard at West 18th Street. Previous billboards have included works by John Baldessari (2011), Allen Ruppersberg (2013), Paola Pivi (2012), Faith Ringgold (2012), and Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari for Toilet Paper (2012), among others.
Along with our commissions and billboards, we have presented both historical and new video works by artists on High Line Channel 14 and High Line Channel 22. Highlights include videos by John Cage (2012), Cinthia Marcelle (2012), Sturtevant (2012), Oscar Munoz (2013), Guido van der Werve (2013), and Gordan Matta-Clark (2011), among others.
One of the most unique and interactive programs is the series High Line Performances. Past works have included performances by Trisha Brown Dance Company (2011), Alyson Knowles (2012), Simone Forti (2012), Jennifer West (2012), Mungo Thomson (2013), and Pablo Bronstein (2013), among others.