If you’re looking for a little seasonal boost amid the winter darkness, head over to the Garment District for their newest free public art installation: the mesmerizing and interactive, Living Lantern, which was unveiled Tuesday.
The exhibit, showing through February 24 on Broadway between W39th and W40th Streets, is the latest in the Garment District Alliance’s Art on the Plazas series, showcasing multidisciplinary, world-renowned artists in the busy thoroughfare.
The 14-foot tall, 20-foot wide lantern is made from plywood, metal and 51 pre-programmed LED bulbs and was created in a collaboration between design firm NEON and UK-based lighting design artist Frankie Boyle. The lantern is wind-powered, drawing spectators in by what the Garment District Alliance describes as a “meditative effect through its mesmerizing movement and changing colors.”
The piece was designed by the two teams over Zoom during the pandemic, and premiered at the World Science Festival in Brisbane, Australia, in March 2021. It made stops in Taiwan and Greece before moving to the Big Apple, where Boyle and team members from NEON set up the lantern in the plaza overnight.
“Lanterns are a universal symbol of brightness, transcendence and guiding light,” wrote Boyle. “In various cultures they are viewed as symbols of love, wisdom and illumination. Lanterns symbolise the inner light that guides the soul through periods of darkness with the promise of a new day. They remind us of our ability to find our way in the world and speak to our innate inner strength.”
Boyle, an outspoken advocate for mental health and neurodiversity awareness, told W42ST that with Living Lantern, “we wanted to make the wind visible —it’s something that we don’t notice in our everyday life, but here we make the invisible visible, so that you might stop, notice it and just take a moment for yourself.”
Mark Nixon of NEON told STIR World: “We hope that people who spend time observing the Living Lantern will feel that they are grounded in the present moment. This can be a profound and important experience for people in these times of incredible uncertainty and turbulence.”
Garment District Alliance officials also hope that the light installation will bring a bit of joy to winter-weary New Yorkers. Barbara Blair, President of the Garment District Alliance said: “We love doing something that’s illuminated in the winter, because it cheers up things a little bit,” and Garment District Alliance Vice President Jerry Scupp told Women’s Wear Daily, “After New Year’s, everyone is pretty much spent, and it’s cold and a little gloomy. We like to put out these illuminated things that have a little bit of warmth and hope when there is not a lot of other public art going on.”
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The Alliance’s Art on the Plaza Program, a collaboration with the New York Department of Transportation’s community art initiative, has a long legacy of providing interactive pieces to Midtown. Recent installations include existentially-themed lightscape PASSAGE, the WIll Kurtz-helmed colorfully recycled Doggy Bags and Santi Flores’s cheerful enamel statues entitled HERE. The Garment District’s most famous public art piece — the Button and Needle (an homage to the neighborhood’s fashion-industry roots) — even got a sleek makeover this October.
Visitors are encouraged to share their Living Lantern experiences on social media by following and tagging @GarmentDistrictNYC on Instagram, @TheGarmentDistrictNYC on Facebook, and @GarmentDstrctNY on Twitter.