Inside Art: Brightening the Outdoors

New York Times
January 27, 2011

The bleakest days of winter hardly seem like the right time to present new works of public art, but two installations have cropped up this season in different parts of Manhattan.

Two glass kiosks that served as pop-up holiday shops near the ice skaters in Bryant Park might have been dismantled, but instead they have been retrofitted into miniature art galleries.

Together the kiosks make up "Battle of the Brush: A Civil Re-enactment of Two Painterly States," a showcase for eight artists that is on view through Wednesday. It is the brainchild of Alexander W. Glauber, a 26-year-old former curatorial assistant for Lehman Brothers who recently founded Corporate Art Solutions, which organizes temporary exhibitions for corporations.

"In my mind, nothing is more counterintuitive to outdoor public art, especially in January, than a painting exhibition," Mr. Glauber said.

Inspired by Bryant Park's rich history - during the Civil War it was used as an encampment - he has taken a lighthearted look at an age-old dialogue by filling one kiosk with realist works and the other with abstract canvases. (Because of climate controls, viewers can't go inside.)

The show is another step toward bringing contemporary art to Bryant Park, which is known more for its performances and film screenings. In May, with the help of the nonprofit Public Art Fund, it presented Kate Gilmore's "Walk the Walk," in which seven women in identical yellow dresses and ivory pumps strode across an eight-foot-high yellow box walking with purpose but with nowhere to go, really, except around the 100-square-foot surface, and into one another.

"While in the past I have been cautious about emerging artists," said Daniel A. Biederman, president of Bryant Park, "I am beginning to look at proposals."

For Mr. Glauber the exhibition was an opportunity to give new life to the kiosks. "It's about adapting existing resources," he said. "And a way of finding new audiences for young artists."