There’s no questioning Times Square’s cultural relevancy. While it’s currently mostly full of big box chain stores, gimmicky restaurants and ticket hustlers, the fact remains that it’s one of the most iconic public spaces in the world. Now—to the delight of tourists and locals alike—a few of its billboards just swapped their ad slogans for fine art. Alongside CNN headlines and the golden arches, visitors can see fine art sourced from five of the US’s most renowned museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The visual facelift is part of Art Everywhere US and it’s taking over all 50 states, with 58 classic American works gracing public spaces.
“We often think of art as a very rarified experience, but in reality it’s a synthesis of everyday life,” says Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for programs at the Whitney. “I think that’s what’s so particularly brilliant about this project is to imagine these images spread across the country. It’s our hope that people will seek out actual works of art and experience all of them.”
Art Everywhere started in the UK, where founder Richard Reed (and co-founder of juice company Innocent) was inspired by a piece installed by a stranger on a particularly dreary day in London. “I don’t think it was art by any great artist, but there was something about it that caught my eye and it made me stop,” Reed explains. “And for 30 seconds, I just reflected on it and it gave me a little lift and it brightened up a rather ugly street.”
The program is made possible through partnerships with outdoor advertising companies—with around 50,000 digital and physical installations gracing everything from dusty county roads to busy bus stops. “Posters don’t just have to be there to convey commercial messages, they’re a way for us as a nation to have a conversation with ourselves,” Reed says of the project’s potential.
Art Everywhere US is open through 31 August 2014. For a full list of installations, check out the map.
Images by Hans Aschim