Part map, part artwork, part public art scavenger hunt, Wayfinding: 100 NYC Public Sculptures turns a viewer’s journey toward a sculpture into an artwork of its own. The temporary installation consists of directional signs and maps bearing black-and-white icons of public sculptures, paired with the distance to each from the Queens Museum at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park.
The project was conceived by U.S.-based Thai artist Bundith Phunsombatlert, who researched every public sculpture in New York City before curating his list of 100, drawing each and calculating distances with GPS coordinates. The results were printed on aluminum signs and mounted onto 99-inch-tall posts, which were placed in groups of six in several of New York’s high-traffic parks. There are four clusters in Manhattan and one in each of the other boroughs.
With Wayfinding, Phunsombatlert invited the audience “to participate, to feel, to think, and to build their own experience.” Through his art practice, he hopes “to connect with other people and discover something about my position in the world by engaging a diversity of perceptions, uncovering cultural meaning as it affects our day-to-day lives.”
The installation ran from May through November 2014. A map is online at www.wayfindingNYC.com.
Where to Look
Working together, databases and maps increase the visibility of public art.
Putting art outside, whether in the street or the forest, is only a first step in getting it to resonate with the public. Another element is making sure people can find it, or find out more about it. Paired with geo-tagging technology, databases are becoming an invaluable tool for spreading the word about public art, near or far, past or present.
Public Art Archive
“How do you make public art more public?” is a question posed by the Public Art Archive. Its database, The Archive—which holds images of more than 8,000 public artworks searchable by location, artist, medium, title, venue, or year—is one answer to the question. Search results link up to Google Maps, making the database practical for finding public art within walking distance. The Public Art Archive also does educational outreach and has a Tumblr blog, “Find, Know, and Grow Your Public Art.” Visit the Public Art Archive at
www.publicartarchive.org or the blog at publicartarchive.tumblr.com.
PAN’s Year in Review
In an effort to celebrate public art, the Public Art Network (PAN) annually selects 50 favorite projects in the U.S. for recognition through its Year in Review. Since the review’s start in 2000, it’s been a great way to keep track of fresh projects and ideas, but as years and awards piled up, past work could be difficult to find. Until last summer, that is, when PAN launched beta-testing of its Year in Review Database, making it easier to discover public art nearby or research stunning work based on medium or budget. The database is searchable by artist, title, commissioning agency, or materials, and browsable by state, venue type, and budget. If all goes according to plan, the official database will be running in June 2015. Do a search at
Each year, Forecast Public Art (publisher of Public Art Review) helps fund site-specific public artworks, many of which are temporary. Although they disappear, “those works become part of the memory of the site,” says Jack Becker, founder and executive director of Forecast. To help people learn more about works that have come and gone, the organization is working on a smartphone app called Residue, which will hold images, reports, and quotes about past projects Forecast has helped bring to fruition. Like the Public Art Archive and Year in Review Database, Residue will link its database to a map to create a user-friendly tool for learning about art and place. Forecast worked with students at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to develop the app, which is scheduled for release in early 2015.
Part 1: Maps in the ‘Hood. Mapping public art: Project Willowbrook.
Part 2: Mapping Cultural Assets. Mapping public art with cultureNOW.
Part 3: Street Art, Meet Google Maps. Street Art Project.