Since Hudson Yards opened on March 15, thousands of people have already interacted with one very visible and much-discussed piece of artwork: Thomas Heatherwick’s The Vessel. But if you explore the neighborhood more thoroughly, you’ll find there are other, more intimate opportunities to experience artwork in Hudson Yards. Throughout the Shops & Restaurants are interactive, engaging works by some of the top contemporary artists in the world, like Rachel Feinstein, Lara Schnitger, Donald Robertson and many more.
The fact that all of this blue-chip artwork exists in Hudson Yards is thanks to Culture Corps, the creative consultancy that curated and commissioned the pieces in the neighborhood as part of an exhibit titled “Off The Wall.” Founded in 2014 by Doreen Remen and Yvonne Force Villareal (who were also the founding team of the stellar non-profit, The Art Production Fund), Culture Corps collaborates with artists to create custom installations and activations, such as New York Magazine’s “50 Covers Projects” and all of the artwork on the set of “Billions.”
We sat down with Remen to learn a little about how Culture Corps curated “Off the Wall,” what kinds of pieces you’ll find at Hudson Yards (and why), and what she thinks about Instagram’s influence on art.
How did you get involved with Hudson Yards?
We got involved early on, when we did two activations as a preview to the opening of the Shed for the Plaza in front of 10 Hudson Yards with Yoko Ono and Jon Burgerman. We also worked with Bovey Lee and Paula Hayes to create installations that lived inside 10 Hudson Yards as well. The projects were meant to engage the community and to really underscore this idea that culture and community are integral in this Hudson Yards experience.
And so after those projects, Hudson Yards wanted a complimentary art program that would continue that dialogue with art on the property. The retail building opening up provided space and opportunities to insert art, and that’s how “Off the Wall” came to be.
What did you consider when selecting artists and works for the space?
We tried to suggest artists where their work is relevant to this kind of location. Meaning, we knew they could do pop culture. Really, artists that we targeted met three criteria: 1) We felt that their work made sense in this environment, 2) They were primarily from New York City, 3) They could create work that belonged in this international destination. Then we worked in collaboration with Related to hone in on that final list.
Once we knew who we wanted, we then thought a lot about where to place the art within the context of the surrounding retailers.
Is there any kind of theme that bonds the different artworks at Hudson Yards together?
A real inspiration was to create installations that are engaging, that invite the audience to participate in one way or another and that are actually completed when the audience participates. So for instance, Donald Ronaldson’s “Love Thy Selfie” piece has different labels on it like “Loved” or “Vegan,” with arrows pointing next to them. So he’s inviting you to label yourself.
Being in this non-tradition space – out of a gallery and out of a museum – allows for that, it allows for the artist to engage with the audience in a new way, and for audiences to engage to with the art in a different way.
Do you find that is an added challenge, creating art outside of a cultural institution like a museum?
It’s actually a really exciting opportunity, because we can engage people who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily consider art for them. There are some people who may not necessarily have visited a museum or may not necessarily think that art is relevant to them. And this is a kind of welcome into the art world. It’s a way that is approachable, non-intimidating, you don’t have an art history background, you don’t need to know the theoretical story.
A lot of the public’s interaction so far around the artworks at Hudson Yards has been on Instagram. How do you think Instagram has impacted people’s perception and engagement of public art?
Instagram is a method for people to interact with the art, and that’s the point of putting art in the public, it’s to create that relationship.
Do you think Instagram drives interest and engagement in art?
It definitely speeds up the process. “Prada Marfa” [which we produced through the Art Production Fund] is now an instantly recognizable icon in pop culture, but it took maybe 10 years for that to happen because we did it pre-Instagram. On the other hand, in two weeks our other project “Seven Magic Mountains” was on Google Maps and it was on CNN’s list of art destinations. So that is the power of social media.
Do you think Instagram is impacting what kind of art is being created?
A big topic of discussion in the art world right now is what happens when you make art to be photographed. But the same conversation was happening around the art fairs, because the setting does affect what kind of art you can make, whether you’re showing in a brownstone or a gallery with 15-foot ceilings and big white walls. Whenever you have a popular consumption vehicle, then that will always impact what kinds of pieces are being created. The artist wouldn’t want to admit that, and they wouldn’t want their practice to be affected by it, and it shouldn’t. But I think that inevitably, it does.
Now that you have Instagram, artists are starting to make art for Instagram. I would say that might not necessarily be wholly positive, but it happens anyway with everything. This isn’t the first time that art might be being made or being changed because of the vehicle that consumes it.
Did Instagram have an impact on the types of pieces in “Off the Wall”?
When you do a project like “Off the Wall,” that is definitely a consideration because you are fully in that space and fully embracing the fact that this is meant to be consumed by the public. But it’s great, because in this instance, you’re authentic to your environment, you’re authentic to the mode within which the art will be consumed.
And how would you describe that environment?
I think it is a destination, it’s a new place to consume art. And I think that’s very exciting, because it brings art into the day-to-day. With the Shed right there, you’re really putting all of these components into a single place. You can pick up some food at Citarella, and run pass an art installation on your way to seeing see a world-class performance. Everything is combined in this big offering, I think it’s pretty amazing.
This interview has been condensed and edited.