View from above

Planting culture along Manhattan's west side

Text by Paul Davies

Photography by Austin Kennedy

Since its launch in 2009, Manhattan's elevated park, the High Line has polarised the opinions of urban dwellers. More so since its second phase opened last year, extending the landscaped promenade from its Meatpacking District origins to mid-town. The New York Times recently highlighted it as the latest example of the continuing Disney-fication of their city, dedicated more to tourism and ramping up property prices of the surrounding neighbourhood that flanks the Hudson river.

Its supporters can justifiably draw strength from the fact that, not only has an important artefact of the city's industrial history been protected from demolition, it has provided a new perspective from which to admire the city. Not on at street-level or penthouse floor of a skyscraper - both synonymous with the New York experience; but at an intermediate height that removes visitors from the hectic bustle. Adopting the idea of renewal from Paris' linear park, Promenade Plantée, this urban model of transformation has since resulted in feasibility studies with local authorities in several other US cities.

Integral to the High Line has been the ongoing cultural program initiated by Friends of the High Line that offers a variety of arts programmed to the seasons. These range from year-long site-specific works, performance and theatrical interventions, video screenings and sound installations scattered throughout the walkways, and briefer presentations on giant billboards.

From October through to next spring, Ghanaian artist El Anatsui launches Broken Bridge, a huge tapestry composed of discarded tins and broken mirror that will reflect the adjacent area. Virginia Overton's old pick-up truck sculpture will be positioned by the stacked parking facility on 20th Street.

The gargantuan billboard at 18th Street and 10th Avenue has been the site for works by Maurizio Cattelan, David Shrigley and recently commissioned, Elad Lassry's Women, (065,055). This will be succeeded in October by Frankfurt's Thomas Bayrle, with his impressionistic portrayal of a classic sedan in American Dream.

This open-air gallery may well find an anchor with the Whitney, who is mooted to be considering a future satellite location after Dia Foundation cancelled plans to open a museum at the Gansevoort Street entrance to the High Line. Until such decisions have been formalised, High Line Art continues to attract visitors with its considered program of commissions and producing work by a broad selection international artists. § 


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