A Public-Art Profile of New York City Street Life

Thanks to an expansion of materials, spaces and appreciation, public art is reaching new heights worldwide, and the sky’s the limit—literally. Beginning September 17, New York will be home to one of the latest examples: “Broadway Morey Boogie,” an exhibit from modern-art gallery Marlborough Chelsea (545 W. 25th St.; 212-463-8634; marlboroughchelsea.com) that features public works at various locations between Columbus Circle and 167th Street along the Broadway Malls.

While the exhibit spans 107 blocks and includes the contemporary works of 10 artists (including Dan Colen, Sarah Braman, Matt Johnson and Paul Druecke), the title—a reference to Piet Mondrian’s 1943 painting Broadway Boogie-Woogie—reveals an homage to New York City street life that is intended to be considered cohesively.

Though the pieces are meant to reflect the same vigorous urban energy that Mondrian’s piece carries, curators Max Levai and Pascal Spengemann also intended to cull a collection that would stop fast-footed New York denizens in their tracks—if only momentarily. “Specifically, we were looking for work that was sufficiently accessible to engage a wider public, while encouraging a thought-provoking dialogue in terms of both form and content,” explains Levai.

Levai and Spengemann carefully selected a group of artists, many of whom will be making their public-art debut, with the hopes of attaining a goal that is twofold: to showcase the talents of artists in the public-art sphere, while also creating the space for future exhibits of its kind. (This also isn’t the first time the Broadway Malls have exhibited outdoor artworks.)

“Public art in New York is a complicated beast, and a realm that I feel is dramatically underdeveloped,” says Levai. “Its advantage is its ability to affect more than just those who participate in the museum and gallery world. Therefore, it has the potential to have a dramatic effect on pushing artistic progress forward.”

Through February 2015. Photo courtesy of Fisk, Lars