Lori Zimmer manages to do tweak opposite emotions simultaneously. In Art Hiding in New York: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Secret Masterpieces, she both soothes those of us missing New York and New York public art, not being able to visit over the past year due to COVID, and aggravate our longing to get back as soon as possible.
Lori Zimmer’s 2020 book, Art Hiding in New York: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Secret Masterpieces (Running Press; September 22), is not only a 280-page love letter to her adopted home town, but a reminder of why NYC will always be a thriving, creative, bustling epicenter for the world, thanks, in no small part to New York public art
All of that art.
Not just the art in New York’s bushel basket of world-class museums, but the art on the street, the art in the hotels and restaurants and subways and lobbies.
All of that art.
“There is a certain type of person that moves to New York,” Zimmer told Forbes.com. “We don’t pay ridiculous rents and live sandwiched against a million other people because that sounds comfortable, we do it because we’re seeking out the culture in the arts and I think that New York will always be a center for that because anything is possible, it’s the creative American Dream.”
Exploring New York public art
Zimmer was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, moving to the city for an internship in 1999.
It was then that she had her first personal encounter with one of New York’s strangest pieces of public art, Christopher Janney’s, Reach!, a sound installation along the platform of the 34th Street N/R subway lines below Herald Square.
“When I was interning at Paper magazine, I knew nothing about New York, I didn’t know how to get around and I accidentally touched it,” Zimmer recalls of her introduction to Reach. “I reached up and I’m like, ‘what is this,’ and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ it changed my opinion of what public art could be because it was interactive, and it was in a smelly subway–it was peak summer–also, not a lot of people know about it, even though there’s a small sign, but who read signs in the subways?”
Zimmer would eventually find employment in an art gallery, and a complete lack of fulfillment there. When she was fired from that gallery in 2009, the journey of writing Art Hiding in New York began.
“I was searching for purpose, I just turned 30 and I was like, ‘alright, I’m going to randomly walkthe whole of Fourth Street from east to west and take notes,’ and there were so many interesting things that I had never noticed before because I was working so much–I was like, ‘New York is giving back to me even more,’” Zimmer remembers. “I just learned so much and became kind of addicted to it so this book in a way–I never knew that I was going to make it a book–but it’s concept has been an obsession of mine for 10 years, quietly compiling stories, narratives and data.”
And what wonderful stories these artworks possess.
Maxfield Parrish’s sophomoric prank on high-end cocktailers. The LGBT sculpture too scandalous for New York, but not for Madison, Wisconsin. The first American woman for whom a statue was commissioned for a public park. The instantly recognizable sculpture placed illegally in Lower Manhattan. A desirable SOHO office space full of dirt. Sculptures scarred by the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
One of her favorite stories involves Salvador Dalí’s time spent living in the St. Regis Hotel with his pet ocelot (an exotic, wild cat native to the Southwestern U.S., Mexico, Central and South America)
“I love imagining Dali walking around there like the weirdo that he was,” Zimmer said. “He would just walk around and interact and mess with people who were guests at the hotel and just so eccentric, it’s such a time that is no longer.”
Zimmer describes each artwork through similar storytelling, not art school jargon.
In addition to Dalí, a constellation of Modern art superstars find inclusion in the book: Alexander Calder, Keith Haring, Louise Nevelson, Richard Serra, Joan Míro, Louise Bourgeois, Jean Michel-Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein.
Visit public art masterpieces in New York
Adding a whimsical flair to Art Hiding in New York are the watercolor illustrations of Maria Krasinski. Krasinski and Zimmer had been friends since they were 9-years-old, but Zimmer remained unaware of Krasinksi’s artistic talent until the two were adults.
“Her drawings are what inspired me to make this a book,” Zimmer said. “I never could figure out what I wanted the book to look like because photographs just weren’t enough…I didn’t want a black and white, low quality, photo of Dalí when I could have a beautiful drawing that would spark imagination.”
A particularly wonderful illustration of Andy Warhol’s residence can be found on page 152.
“Imagination” would guide the entire project.
“My whole love with the things in this book are about the imagination and the narrative, not so much facts…and I feel like photographs are too literal in that regard,” Zimmer said. “I also felt like photographs remind me of guidebooks and I wanted this to be the next level, you know, it’s not a guidebook, but it is, it’s kind of toeing the line between the two.”
Art Hiding in New York encourages New Yorkers to return to their sidewalks with renewed interest, reinforcing how special their chosen city is. For non-New Yorkers, it fuels a craving for visits to the city.
New York–as everyone who has spent any time there knows–is much more than a collection of buildings and streets and concrete and glass.
“You can have the best day by yourself just by looking and interacting with the city,” Zimmer said. “There’s so much here that it’s almost like a person, you can have a relationship with the city.”
Art Hiding in New York helps make the most of that relationship.
I love NY. I miss NY.