From 1934 to 1980, the High Line was an elevated freight rail line that hauled goods into New York’s meatpacking district. Today, it is a mile long, high concept public park built on the abandoned railroad track with modern landscaping and scattered with public art installations. I was immediately intrigued by the unique juxtaposition of old and new going on with the design like the original steel tracks reused and incorporated into the path, railings restored and given a fresh coat of paint and the modern architectural landscaping along the entire trail.
They also have all these little surprises spread around the park – a paper cup pyramid, a pair of bronze monkeys, small wooden people. It’s called Lilliput and it was the first group exhibition at the High Line when it made it’s debut in April 2012. Inspired by Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, you can find these miniature sculptures in all sorts of unexpected places throughout the park. Finding these treasures was like a fun artistic scavenger hunt!
The High Line also features a number of other public art installations and rotating art exhibits including artist Allen Ruppersberg’s rad You & Me billboard on display during the month of February. Arranged side by side on a grid to cover the entire 25 by 75 foot billboard, Ruppersberg’s colorful trademark posters displayed combinations of the words “you” and “me.” It was amazing how bright the colors were and how it really popped against the grey sky and city skyline.
Beneath the former Nabisco building there is a passage between 15th and 16th Streets that is accented with Spencer Finch’s beautiful stained glass art The River That Flows Both Ways. Inspired by the Hudson River, Finch photographed the river’s surface once every minute for 700 minutes. Each pane of glass was then based on a single pixel point in each photo and chronologically arranged in the tunnel. During our visit, the late afternoon light reflected shades of red and brown and deep greens. It was amazing.
A similar project in Paris, the Promenade Plantée, completed in 1993, provided inspiration for the High Line and has encouraged other cities such as St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jersey City and Chicago to renovate their abandoned railroads. I did a little digging and in Chicago there is a plan to build a trail on an abandoned freight rail line on the city’s Northwest side. Stretching from Ashland Avenue to Ridgeway along Bloomingdale Avenue through four Chicago neighborhoods, the project is still in the early phases of development. For more info, check out The Bloomingdale Trail website.
To find out more about the High Line, visit their website. For upcoming, current or past High Line art projects, check out High Line Art or download their art map.
photo credit kate zitzer