The World’s Most-Visited Public Art Installation

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I wanted to make a blog around this most popular public art piece in the World, Christo and Jeanne-Claude The Gates, Central Park. But I couldn’t find a way to do it. So I decided to make a blog about how can I make one.

The most-visited piece of public art in the world is not the Statue of Liberty, or the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, but rather a sculpture called “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. It’s a reflective, mirrored surface in the ground that reflects skyscrapers on one side and clouds on another, depending on which way you’re facing. It has been photographed millions of times.

But its popularity is in doubt.

According to a blog called Sculpture Chicago, it has been estimated that some 200 million photographs have been taken of the sculpture since it was installed in 2004. But based on their own experience photographing it, they believe those estimates are too high: at least 80% of those photos weren’t worth taking. And even when a photo was taken from an interesting angle or with good lighting, they would still only want to keep about one out of every ten shots.

The crown jewel of Seattle’s public art collection, the Olympic Sculpture Park features works by some of the greatest sculptors in history, including Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero and Richard Serra. The park also hosts live music performances and other events throughout the year. The sculpture park is free to the public and open year-round from sunrise to sunset.

The sculptors represented in the Olympic Sculpture Park are diverse, from world-renowned artists like Richard Serra to lesser known but equally talented artists like Jeffery Koons and Robert Therrien. Some of them are modern masters, like Louise Bourgeois. Some have even been called “the next Picasso.” Others are fellow artists of famous friends, like Dale Chihuly who was a student of Roy Lichtenstein’s. And some of them are just up-and-coming visionaries whose work is not yet widely known. But all of them share one thing: they have left their mark in the Olympic Sculpture Park – an outdoor museum that draws more than 1 million visitors each year.*

They’ve left their mark on us too.**

So, the last few days I’ve been doing interviews with people who have visited Christo’s “The Gates” in Central Park. It’s fascinating to hear the stories of people who made a trek out to see something they’d never seen before! I’ve heard of people getting lost or being stuck in traffic, but a lot of folks made it and had an amazing time exploring the art piece and meeting fellow visitors.

especially interesting was seeing how the installation has affected people. Many were awed by it, getting emotional about their experience at seeing something beautiful and temporary (it will be taken down in February). Others said that it is representative of New York City: when you think about all the advertising and visual clutter we’re surrounded by, The Gates are as unique as Central Park itself.

Some people were disappointed that there weren’t more gates–there’s only 1 mile of them total–and wanted them to stay longer. But overall, everyone seemed to have had a great time.

The weathervane – the rooster atop the National Museum of American History’s West Wing – has been a backdrop for countless family photos, first dates and graduations. It is also the best-known piece of public art in the country and has inspired all sorts of stories and myths.

In honor of Smithsonian magazine’s 125th anniversary this year, we’ve launched an online blog about the weathervane, which is called “Americans on the Move.” The blog includes a history of the rooster, its past restoration, a survey asking visitors to name their favorite artifact at the museum (the weathervane came out on top), and other stories from each floor of the museum.

And what about that name? During a building renovation in 1980, curators found a small metal plaque on a brick wall that read: “This building was erected in 1855. This rooster weather vane placed here by Washington Roosters Club May 20, 1857.” They believe that club was made up of friends and former neighbors of President James Buchanan, who had lived across 14th Street from the museum with his wife, Harriet Lane Johnston.*

After learning more about this rooster – how it became so popular and its storied past – you might spot it in your

The Statue of Liberty was the most difficult single work of art ever attempted by the sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. It required him to solve many technical problems that had never been solved before, and to invent completely new technologies to create it.

The original torch had to be made of a material that could withstand being outside in salt air for decades, and then be able to be lit on fire when the time came. The face had to look both ways at once (so as not to offend French or American patriots). The entire statue had to be self-supporting, both up-side-down and on its side.*

Bartholdi had to persuade the people who controlled immigration that letting immigrants through would be a good idea; he had to invent an entirely new type of construction crane; and he had to find a place where he could assemble his giant work, because ships of the day were too small.

*By “self-supporting” I mean that the main body of the statue would not need any guy wires nor other external supports. If you stood under it, you wouldn’t feel like it was going to fall over on you.

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