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ArtWalk is now Float

We've changed our name!

I started this project out of my interest for public art, but quickly realised that in the tight knit fabric of our city everything is connected – the sculpture to the building, its construction to scientific innovations, and all of it makes up our history. New York City is a fascinating tangle of stories, which ultimately, are about people. The people that not only lived and worked in but, with their efforts, also built this city.

The project changed from being about public art and architecture to being about stories. Stories that could help us not only understand and appreciate the city but also discover the places around us. Often these stories are hard to discover, though all of its parts are out there, sometimes in plain sight. That’s what we want to do: assemble the intricate puzzle of your city into an engaging experience of the past and present.

And so the idea of exploring art while walking the streets changed into giving you the ability to simply float through the city and see the places and spaces around you in a new light.

Welcome Float!

Lispius Cook House

Bushwick’s Lipsius Cook House holds the strange story of an Arctic explorer, an untiring rival, and the fantastical (and fallacious) tales of their journeys to previously unreached parts of the globe.

In 1889, Catharina Lipsius, the widow of one of Brooklyn’s earliest beer brewers, commissioned Theobald Engelhart, a revered German architect at the time, to design the red brick American Round-Arched house at 670-674 Bushwick Avenue. 

Though the home has had a myriad of owners since its completion in the late 19th century, its most interesting character was its second owner, physician and explorer Frederick Cook, who purchased the house from the Lipsius family in 1902. Cook became known for his claims that he was the first one to reach the peak of Alaska’s Mount McKinley and the first person to reach the North Pole. Both his expedition team and fellow explorer Robert Peary challenged the truth of his stories. Peary–who claimed that he was the first one to reach the North Pole–devoted most of his life to discrediting Cook’s allegations, which resulted in the financial and social ruin of both men.

Cook tried to defend himself against Peary’s claims, producing photographs and maps from his expeditions. His famous photograph which was allegedly taken from the summit of Mt. McKinley was found to have been taken on a tiny peak–which is now called Fake Peak after Cook’s fallacious claims–about 20 miles away from McKinley. Cook’s maps were also subject to doubt, showing paths matching those of science fiction writer Jules Verne’s fictional Arctic expeditions. Peary and the public continued doubting Cook after it was found that all of Cook’s travelling companions gave different accounts of their trips with him.

Though Peary claimed that he was in fact the first person to reach the North Pole, there was not much proof supporting his story either. Historians continue to debate whether either of them ever actually made it there. Despite Peary’s equally doubtful expedition tales, he successfully discredited Cook and soiled his reputation as an explorer.

As if he wasn’t already surrounded by enough controversy, Cook was found guilty of mail fraud in 1922 and was imprisoned until 1930, which resulted in the loss of his Bushwick home. The property changed hands several times since the 1920s, and has been a multiple resident private property since 2000.


Find many more of these stories on our App!

Brooklyn's Lipsius-Cook Mansion

In 1889, Catharina Lipsius, the widow of one of Brooklyn’s earliest beer brewers, commissioned Theobald Engelhart, a revered German architects at the time, to design the red brick American Round-Arched house at 670-674 Bushwick Avenue.

Though the home has had a myriad of owners since its completion in the late 19th century, its most interesting character was its second owner, physician and explorer Frederick Cook, who purchased the house from the Lipsius family in 1902. Cook became known for his claims that he was the first one to reach the peak of Alaska’s Mount McKinley and the first person to reach the North Pole. Both his expedition team and fellow explorer Robert Peary challenged the truth of his stories. Peary–who claimed that he was the first one to reach the North Pole–devoted most of his life to discrediting Cook’s allegations, which resulted in the financial and social ruin of both men.

Cook tried to defend himself against Peary’s claims, producing photographs and maps from his expeditions. His famous photograph which allegedly taken from the summit of Mt. McKinley was found to have been taken on a tiny peak–which is now called Fake Peak after Cook’s fallacious claims–about 20 miles away from McKinley. Cook’s maps were also subject to doubt, showing paths matching those of science fiction writer Jules Verne’s fictional Arctic expeditions. Peary and the public continued doubting Cook after it was found that all of Cook’s travelling companions gave different accounts of their trips with him.

A photo of Cook allegedly near or at the North Pole

A photo of Cook allegedly near or at the North Pole

Though Peary claimed that he was in fact the first person to reach the North Pole, there was not much proof supporting his story either. Historians continue to debate whether either of them ever actually made it there. Despite Peary’s equally doubtful expedition tales, he successfully discredited Cook and soiled his reputation as an explorer.

As if he wasn’t already surrounded by enough controversy, Cook was found guilty of mail fraud in 1922 and was imprisoned until 1930, which resulted in the loss of his Bushwick home. The property changed hands several times since the 1920s, and has been a multiple resident private property since 2000.

56 Ludlow Street: The home of the Velvet Underground

In honor of what would have been Lou Reed’s 73rd birthday today, we are dedicating this blog post to the building that served as the birthplace for Reed’s and John Cale’s Velvet Underground! The old building on 56 Ludlow Street was originally built as a tenement, but in the 1960’s, it became home to artists and musicians looking for a cheap place to live. When John Cale and filmmaker Tony Conrad moved into the building in 1964, rent was $25—about $190 in today’s currency.

After Cale and Reed met in 1964 in Queens, the two soon began playing, writing, and recording the songs that would appear on the Velvet Underground’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Reed never moved into the apartment, despite rumors that he lived there. According to Cale, Reed commuted every day to the apartment from his parents’ house on Long Island.

The Velvets posing outside of 52 Ludlow Street, just a few doors down from Cale's apartment.

 

The group went by a number of different names such as The Warlocks and The Falling Spikes, but eventually changed their name to The Velvet Underground after an S&M novel of the same name that Tony Conrad found on the street. Cale thought it was the perfect name for the band, saying that there was nothing velvet about the situation they found themselves in, burning furniture and crates in the fireplace for warmth and living off of milkshakes and canned soup.

The next year, the group met Andy Warhol and instantly became a central part of the New York City music and art scene. Today, the Velvets are considered by many to be one of the most influential and important rock bands of all time.

 

56 Ludlow today. Do the steps and white door three doors to the right look familiar? They're the backdrop of the band's 52 Ludlow Street group shot.


App Launch

Happy New Year, everyone! We finished off 2014 with the launch of the ArtWalk app! Download it from the iTunes store.

So far, the app covers about 40 sites and tidbits between the Bowery and SoHo, and we're currently working on adding another 80 stories in the coming months – so stay tuned!

If you haven't seen the app yet, check out our quick screenscast.

The app features a general map which shows your location and all available sights. From there you can click into each story individually or select the neighborhood or list view.

The Neighborhood view includes a map of the area, a suggested walking path – which you can but don't have to follow – and a list of location specific stories, which we call sights, but also non location-specific stories like ones people or concepts, we call these tidbits. Confused? It will all make sense once you try the app in hand! Last but not least we have our list view, where sights and tidbits are in alphabetical order and searchable.

Each sight and tidbit page includes a beautiful, original illustration and gives you the run-down of its story, background and significance while also providing a timeline of events and related links.

 

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ArtWalk meets SoHo Memory Project

We met with Yukie, the writer behind the SoHo Memory Project, for a coffee this week.

Yukie started her blog in 2011 as a place to write down her memories of growing up in SoHo in the 70s and to collect stories about the neighborhood in the 1960s through early 1980s. Her blog has been a great resource for us already, and it was great to talk to someone who experience SoHo in its glory and grime first hand, but is also just as passionate about archiving the history of New York.

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She also gifted us an awesome New York guide book from 1971!

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And look what we found inside:

We’re looking forward to talking more with Yukie in the future, in the meantime, check out her blog. One of our favorite posts is her Top Ten list of quirky things about 70s SoHo life. Some of those things still seem to be true today.

Our app & Kickstarter

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We’re so excited to announce that we just launched a Kickstarter campaign for our ArtWalk app! It will allow for new ways of sharing stories and exploring neighborhoods. We have a fun mix of rewards, from discounted app downloads and walk tickets, to an ArtWalk illustration hoodie and postcards, to original art and special experiences.

Help us make it happen and share the Kickstarter – we’ve created a page to make it easy for you.

Sascha also wrote an  article on his motivations for the ArtWalk; read it on Medium.

Levitated Mass and Urban Light at LACMA

“They are works of art that can be considered works of art but don’t have to be in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.”

-Michael Heizer

 

Michael Heizer’s quote could be ArtWalk’s slogan. As much as we love visiting museums, we are just as interested in art found in public spaces. But what about art that is public, but museum-adjacent?

Some museum buildings are art in themselves – think of the Guggenheim’s curves. Others don’t rest on their architectural laurels and accessorize with examples of art found within their walls. The New Museum’s rotating outdoors sculpture installations use the building as a canvas. Currently, ‘Ghost Ship’ is hanging above the Bowery, with previous showcases being Ugo Rondinone’s ‘Hell, Yes!’ sign and Isa Genzken’s ‘Rose II’.

On a visit to LA this week, I got to see how the West Coast does it. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a sprawling complex with many spaces accessible without a museum ticket. The space is flanked by two relatively recent additions to the collection, but both works have already achieved iconic status.

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At the front, Chris Burden’s ‘Urban Light’ (2008) is a grid of antique lampposts the artist collected from across the city and rearranged as a maze. In the back, Michael Heizer’s ‘Levitated Mass’ has just begun its run, which, according to the artist, should last 3,500 years.

‘Levitated Mass’ has caused a bit of controversy during its installation, mostly due to the great expense that was involved in moving the 340 ton boulder from its original location, even though it was only 60 miles away from the LACMA campus. The cost of the project is estimated at around 10 Million and the 11 night journey was followed with great interest by locals, who even organized block parties to welcome the truck carrying the boulder.

Though the two sculptures differ considerably, both have redefined the original objects by rearranging them in a new space and in an unusual formation. The grouped-together lanterns, the floating rock – especially due to their placement outside of museum walls, make their audience aware of the objects’ original purpose in public space.

‘Levitated Mass’ is now getting a second hoorah through a documentary about its lengthy, controversial creation. The movie will start screening in New York at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from November 14th.

 

If you want to see more or Chris Burden’s work, The New Museum is currently exhibiting a retrospective of the artist’s work.

 

Wayfinding New York by Bundith Phunsombatlert

Here at ArtWalk, we love to discover artists old and new, who have made a mark on the city with their work. One project that stood out to me recently was Wayfinding. Just as ArtWalk tries to showcase  and tell the story of  public art dotted all around New York, artist Bundith Phunsombatlert created a piece that directs viewers to 100 public sculptures all across town.

Bundith was nice enough to meet me in Flushing Meadow Park, whereWayfinding is displayed, in early August, and tell me more about his work.

The installation is comprised of 6 signposts with directional signs to 100 public sculptures around New York City. An original image of the sculpture and the distance in miles from the sign to the art is all that is displayed. Viewers are invited to consider the distance between the signs and the significance of the journey between the sign and the destination.

Bundith selected the 100 sculptures to provide a mix between the iconic, lesser known, and hidden public art. When you do visit the project, take note of this neat detail: the location of a sign on the post corresponds to its relationship to the ground. The sign for the Statue of Liberty is at the top of the post, while ‘A Gathering’ – Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz’s installation of cast iron birds inside the Canal Street subway station – is at the bottom.

Bundith was inspired in part by his own experience of navigating New York City when he first moved here. I asked him whether he had a favorite amongst the works he selected. It turns out that he has a soft spot for the Lenin sculpture atop the Red Square building, whose story, incidentally, is covered in our Bowery walk.

To find out more about Bundith’s work, to help him finance the move of the signposts to their next location after November 15th, and to access a map of the 100 works across the city, visit www.wayfindingNYC.com.

MoMA PS1 Rockaway!

Yesterday, I ventured for the first time to the southernmost stop of the A train (and then some), to Fort Tilden, where MoMA PS1 is curating a summer festival Rockaway! The festival finishes its run on Monday, and at least one major exhibit, Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet has already been moved to a new location.

The Rockaways have been slowly rebuilding after the extensive damage sustained in the community during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It is only this summer that Fort Tilden Beach officially opened again to the public. For anyone who is heading down to the beach this Labor Day weekend, check out the remaining Rockaway! exhibits.

I was completely unprepared for what I was going to find at the Rockaway Artists Alliance. Surrounded by sports fields and shuttered buildings, the area evokes a sleepy beach town community. There was no way of telling that within some of the buildings and throughout the surrounding dunes, Patti Smith and sculptor Adrian Villar Rojas are exhibiting their work.

Singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist Patti Smith experienced the storm’s devastation first hand as a local homeowner and has worked closely with MoMA PS1 to give something back to her neighborhood. Arguably the centerpiece of Rockaway! is Patti Smith’s Resilience of the Dreamer.  The installation spans three buildings and includes a Walt Whitman interactive reading room, a gallery of Smith’s photographs, and granite stones engraved with Whitman quotes strewn throughout the area.

The most memorable part of the exhibit is located within a derelict building with broken windows, which looms high above the gallery space. Signs warn of poison ivy as I approached, and it looked like nothing more than a heavily graffitied abandoned building. The pictures I took don’t do the piece justice. A run of the mill abandoned space is transformed by the presence of a goldleaf covered bed with a linen canopy descending all the way from the tall roof. Summer sunlight streams in and along with the swaying linen panels, gives the bed an appearance of floating above ground.

The bed is the centerpiece, but it is worth exploring the debris littering the rest of the room. It is unclear if the broken pipes, chairs and tables have been carelessly shoved aside, or artfully arranged. Amongst the debris, more white stones have been placed, intermingling with the man-made items, evoking to the vines streaming in through the broken windows.

If you do make it to Fort Tilden, ask the gallery attendants about the observation spot atop Battery Harris. Adrian Villar Rojas’ bird nest sculptures can be seen along the walk, and there’s a little ArtWalk note to be found on the observation deck. Tag your pictures of it on Instagram with @artwalknyc, and we’ll give you 50% off your next ArtWalk ticket purchase!

The MoMA PS1 Rockaway! exhibits will be shown until the 1st September.