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5 Must-See Outdoor Art Exhibitions

The perfect cultural excursions, from Texas to Italy

With the recent opening of Ugo Rondinone’s “Seven Magic Mountains,” a large-scale public artwork outside Las Vegas sponsored jointly by the Art Production Fund and the Nevada Museum of Art, public art is really flourishing. “The exhibit brings together land art and pop art for an unforgettable art experience in the desert,” says Casey Fremont, the Art Production Fund’s executive director. “The pristine natural beauty of the landscape serves as the perfect setting for Ugo’s monumental fluorescent painted boulder mountains.”

Fremont, the NYC-based mother of two, is always looking for ways to tire out her young boys while introducing them to art. “One of my favorite summer day trips is to Storm King,” Fremont explains. “Give yourself a full day and bring a bike. Every time I go, the experience is different. The weather, the sky, the natural elements that surround you completely impact how you experience the work.”

There is no better time than the summer to explore these and other contemporary art commissions around the world. From tricked out birds circling NYC’s East River to an Italian lake covered in striking yellow fabric, there is something for everyone to appreciate.


1. Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York

Installations by Dennis Oppenheim and Josephine Halvorson opened on May 14th and are on view through November at Storm King, the 500-acre outdoor sculpture museum in upstate New York. Terrestrial Studio will feature monumental outdoor earthworks and indoor sculpture from the late Oppenheim, including some installations never fully realized by the artist in his lifetime, including “Dead Furrow” and “Entrance to a Garden.” The Outlooks exhibition is a series that invites an emerging or mid-career artist to create a site-specific work for a single season and this year, it’s Halvorson’s vibrant hand-painted, 12 to 36-foot-tall sculptural measuring rulers.

Installations by Dennis Oppenheim and Josephine Halvorson


2. “Fly By Night” in NYC 

Creative Time’s latest outdoor art project, “Fly By Night,” features a massive flock of pigeons, equipped with small LED lights, which twirl, swoop and glide over NYC’s East River skyline as choreographed by the artist Duke Riley. At the artist’s signal, the birds leave their lofts on top of a decommissioned naval vessel docked at the mysterious Brooklyn Navy Yard (the former home of the U.S. Navy’s largest pigeon coop) and they circle the river as the sun sets over Manhattan. The performance piece, about a forgotten part of the city’s history, shines a spotlight on the quirky art of pigeon fancying. Through June 12th.

Creative Time’s latest outdoor art project, “Fly By Night”


3. Robert Irwin at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas

Robert Irwin, the 87-year-old American artist has, for the last 14 years, been hard at work on a commission for the Chinati Foundation (founded by sculptor Donald Judd) in Marfa, Texas. This July, the California-based artist, who first discovered the West Texas treasure in 1971 on a cross-country drive, will debut his special permanent exhibition. The design features his expressive shaping of light, shadow, material and space as he has worked with gardens, planting and landscape for over 30 years. Visitors will experience the building in halves, with one side dark and the other light as the artist plays with the integration of the inside with the outside. Where a small infirmary once stood, Irwin has designed a large, Corten-steel-lined, planter where a grove of Palo Verde trees will provide shade and texture.

Photo courtesy of the Chinati Foundation


4. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Floating Piers” in Lake Iseo, Italy

From June 18th to July 3rd, weather permitting, Northern Italy’s Lake Iseo will be outfitted in 70,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric, carried by a modular floating dock system of 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes. Christo’s “The Floating Piers” will undulate with the movement of the waves just above the surface of the water. Visitors to the work of art will be able to walk on a 3-kilometer-long walkway from Sulzano to Monte Isola and to the island of San Paolo. The piers, located 100 kilometers east of Milan, will be 16 meters wide and approximately 50 centimeters high with sloping sides. The self-funded 16-day exhibition is the first project Christo and his wife, the late Jeanne-Claude, have embarked on since their much-lauded “The Gates” in 2005 in New York City.

Photo: André Grossmann, © 2014 Christo


5. Martin Creed “Understanding” in NYC

On view through October 23rd, Martin Creed’s giant neon sign “Understanding” is lighting up Brooklyn Bridge Park, a commission by the Public Art Fund. The 48-foot-long red single word work is installed on the waterfront at Pier Six next to a beautiful lawn ideal for a picnic while you watch the kinetic work and gaze at the always impressive Manhattan skyline (Manhattanites can view it from the East River). This is the British artist’s largest scale outdoor work to date and opens concurrently with his retrospective at the Park Avenue Armory.

Martin Creed’s “Understanding” in NYC