The Striking New Artworks That Follow Rockefeller Center’s Grand Tradition of Public Art

Laura van Straaten in Smithsonian:

Conceived by John D. Rockefellear, Jr.—fortunate son of the oil magnate—as a city within a city, Rockefeller Center was to be a “mecca for lovers of art,” as he put it, in the heart of New York. He commissioned the installation of more than 100 permanent sculptures, paintings and textiles around his 22-acre real estate development in midtown Manhattan. Since it opened in 1933, artworks like the sculptures of Prometheus and Atlas have become landmarks and photogenic destinations on par with the popular skating rink in its core. Now through June 28, following a nearly 20-year tradition of mounting one-offs of monolithic, crowd-pleasing contemporary artwork, Rockefeller Center is hosting its most expansive and daring exhibition yet: 20 diverse artworks at once from 14 contemporary artists from around the world. The two-month exhibition marks the New York debut for Frieze Sculpture, an import from the United Kingdom with major contemporary art cred. And the artworks, some commissioned specifically for this show, create a palpable tension with the more permanent artworks installed more than 80 years prior.

Although the exhibition has no unifying theme, a number of artworks are pointedly political, addressing power and inequality by being what Frieze Sculpture’s curator Brett Littman describes as “about speech, about freedom of expression, about media, about the idea of images and then the propagation of images, particularly historical images.” That pointedness is a radical move in a spot that teems with tourists 24/7 and during the workweek heaves with crowds of corporate types who work for the financial, legal, and other commercial institutions that occupy Rockefeller Center’s skyscrapers.

More here.