In traditional galleries and museums we often see art presented with minimal interference by context. Work is shown on white walls with maximum breathing room. On Monday evening at the Art Takes Times Square Billboard Premiere, artists who rose to the top of a pool of 35,000 saw their work displayed in a wildly different way.
Artists Wanted’s mission and curation of Art Takes Times Square was rad meaning radical—winning works were shown on three major Times Square billboards (on the Nasdaq, Thomson Reuters and Port Authority buildings) and on screens that hung from the walls of the en plein air afterparty space on 42nd Street. These images, and the names of the featured artists, floated in a slideshow above a sea of DIY hats and dancing art-makers, grooving to sets by ?uestlove and Portland’s AndrewAndrew.
I was touched by the sincerity and humility of the artists featured, such as Erina Hattori of Astoria, pictured above with fringe. Times Square can either be an overwhelming spot, or a vision of larger-than-life possibility and glamour. I tend to dislike the area and find it both overwhelming and boring. Yet on Monday, Artists Wanted (led by William Etundi Jr, the company’s founder and chief executive) carved a space out of Times Square for gawking at fine art, and mingling with a diverse group of art-makers. The contemporary American belief—the if you upload it, they will come—was one foundation for this unique, competitive yet supportive event.
And it was touching to hear Vicki DaSilva’s impressions of winning the grant prize for her glowing homage to the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei. DaSilva is a substitute teacher in from Allentown, PA. She recently told the NYTimes “This is my Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z moment, my ‘New York, New York’ moment.” When Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” absolutely brought down the house last night, it became obvious that this feeling rang true for many of the artists whose work climbed the ranks.
In DaSilva’s words, “You can’t get bigger than Times Square.”