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5 Amazing Installation Art Exhibits You Shouldn’t Miss in NYC This Summer

Since the conceptual art movement of the 1960s, artists have been creating immersive 3-D environments known as “installations.” Often site-specific, these works aim to envelop the viewer in a different world and/or transform one’s perception of the space around one. Arts mecca that we are, New York has numerous examples of the form on display at any given time, and this summer’s crop seems especially promising. From Kara Walker’s monumental installation at the Domino Sugar Factory to Žilvinas Kempinas’ site-specific piece at Socrates Sculpture Park, here are five exciting installations to experience in the NYC area this summer.


Kara Walker's 'A Subtlety'

Kara Walker’s ‘A Subtlety,’ a sphinx made in part of bleached sugar at the former Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A Subtletly or: the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant, Kara Walker
On the eve of the destruction of the Domino sugar factory, celebrated artist Kara Walker is using the old Domino building as a backdrop for a temporary installation, the centerpiece of which is a large, sphinx-like figure coated, fittingly, in sugar. Like most of Walker’s output, the piece explores issues of race, gender, violence and identity, especially as they pertain to the sugar industry’s bloody, slavery-supported beginnings.

DETAILS: May 10-July 6; 316 Kent Ave., Brooklyn; no phone;

Two-Way Hedge Labyrinth Walkabout, Dan Graham and Günther Vogt
Each year the Metropolitan Museum of Art commissions a different artist (or set of artists, as the case may be) to completely re-envision their roof garden. Created by American artist Dan Graham in collaboration with Swiss landscape architect Günther Vogt, the piece incorporates green lawns, tall hedges and a curved two-way (both transparent and reflective) mirror for a multi-layered piece referencing corporate architecture, Graham’s suburban childhood, and private vs. public space. It’s also a great backdrop for #selfies. Read more in On View.

DETAILS: April 29-Nov. 2 (weather permitting); 1000 5th Ave.; 212-535-7710;

Scarecrow, Žilvinas Kempinas
With its playful contemporary sculptures and idyllic riverside location, the Socrates Sculpture Park has always been a pleasant place to spend a summer afternoon, and now it’s become even more so with a brand-new sculpture by Lithuanian born artist Žilvinas Kempinas. The largest installation in the park’s 28-year history, Scarecrow consists of numerous metal poles connected at their tops by silver Mylar ribbon, which changes with its environment as it sways in the breeze and reflects the sun.

DETAILS: May 11-Aug. 3; 32-01 Vernon Blvd., Queens; no phone;

Submerged Motherlands, Swoon
Humans have been telling each other flood stories since the dawn of recorded history and maybe earlier. In that fertile ground, Brooklyn artist Swoon has grown an installation referencing the ancient lost landmass of Doggerland as well as the recent tragedy of Hurricane Sandy at Brooklyn Museum. Incorporating drawings (many of her own friends and family members), paper sculptures and homemade (and seaworthy!) boats from her “Swimming Cities” project, Swoon has constructed a piece that is as meaning-laden as it is aesthetically delicious.

DETAILS: April 11-Aug. 24; 200 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn; 718-638-5000;

Park Avenue Paper Chase, Alice Aycock
As you hurry along Park Avenue with summer breezes tickling your face, see the wind’s (and perhaps your own) movements charted in this large public art piece by Alice Aycock. Constructed from aluminum and fiberglass with the help of 3-D modeling software, these sculptures mirror the titular loose papers, the folds of clothing, your hair in the wind, and whatever other swirling movements pop into your head.

DETAILS: Through July 20; Median of Park Ave. from 52nd St. to 66th St.; no phone;

For more current art exhibitions in NYC, see On View.

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