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Entries in Madison Square Park (1)


Antony Gormley: Event Horizon New York


A sculpture from Event Horizon on 205 Fifth Avenue, overlooking Madison Square Park. Photo by James Ewing, © Antony Gormley

Isolated against the sky these dark figures look out into space at large asking: Where does the human project fit in the scheme of things? In an age in which over 50% of the human population of the planet lives in cities, this installation in New York (the original and prime example of urban high-rise living) questions how this built world relates to an inherited earth. -Antony Gormley

Public Art that activates the sky

When I walked through Madison Square Park, a 6.2-acre public park, which is always teaming with tourists on a Saturday, it was impossible not to notice that there was something capturing their attention. No, it wasn’t the usually long lines at Shake Shack or the ultra-theatrical squirrels that like to pose for photos (always an amusing sight). With cameras, and even binoculars in hand, and a few arms outstretched with fingers pointing skyward, it became obvious that the public art exhibition, Event Horizon, had caused people to do something that is almost never done in New York, pause.

This is the street view of the sculpture, situated on the home of Pentagram, the internationally renowned design firm at 205 Fifth Avenue. Pedestrians were encouraged to look upwards with the help of a flag with an arrow on it.  The neo-classical limestone building was designed by architect C.P.H. Gilbert.

Event Horizon is a public art exhibition by celebrated British artist Antony Gormley, which is on display in New York until August 15.  Sponsored by the Madison Park Conservancy, in collaboration with the City of New York, it has received considerable press and notice throughout its five-month run. It also marks his first public art showing in the United States by the sculptutor who has received critical acclaim for over 25 years.  Gormley originally created Event Horizon for London’s Hayward Gallery as part of the Blind Light exhibition in 2007. The sculptures were installed on bridges, rooftops and streets along the South Bank of London’s Thames River.

There are 31 life-size human figures, currently positioned throughout Madison Square Park, the surrounding Flatiron District, and Union Square.  The sculptures were cast from the artist’s own six-foot-two body.  This video shows Gormley's scouting expedition:

Gormley is quick to point out that his works are sculptures, not statues.  His intent is to have people stand still, notice the figures, and to pay attention to what is happening around them. “Event Horizon hopes to activate the skyline in order to encourage people to look around. In the process of looking and finding or looking and seeking, one perhaps reassesses one’s own position in the world and becomes aware of one’s status of embedment.”


The bronze full-standing statue of political figure Roscoe Conkling (1829-1888) is located in Madison Square Park.  The work is by the distinguished artist John Quincy Adams Ward (1840-1910), and dates to 1893.

Gormley’s work is a modern departure from most civic artwork.  Ironically, Madison Square Park is home to many statues, but I don’t know how many people have ever heard of once prominent 19th century political figures such as United States President Chester Arthur, and Roscoe Conkling (yes, I was

It takes a small bit of navigation and a pair of sharp eyes (high-powered binoculars are even better) to spot all of the pieces within the outdoor exhibition. Four figures that are at street level, are made of caste iron, and weigh 1,700 pounds. There are 27 others located on rooftops as high as 55 stories up, and on parapets around the park, and they are made of fiberglass, weighing only 70 pounds.   


One of the sculptures is situated in the shadow of the 102-story landmark Art Deco skyscraper, the Empire State Building (1931).

Initially the sculptures, positioned on several of New York’s iconic architectural landmarks, generated some short-lived controversy.  Prior to the exhibition’s opening, some expressed panic that sculptures strategically at the edges of rooftops, would give the appearance of people attempting suicide. However, those fears were quelled after enough public information was disseminated about the exhibition.

Event Horizon sculpture on 184 Fifth Avenue

Event Horizon was a successful public installation, because it made me look at buildings in new, different and exciting ways which never happens when my eyes usually remain fixed at ground-level.  The exhibition did force me to discover the treasure trove of magnificent historic buildings that exist, and also to recognize the ever-changing skyline. I managed this virtual sculpture scavenger hunt without a map, so there were many surprises. 

Yes, Gormley’s work actually encouraged me to change the narrative in my head about this area of the city. I saw the Madison Square Park through a slower, more deliberative lens, because I paid attention to everything around me. 

In the end, I realized that it was fun to take in the city in a different way. The sculptures truly enlivened the buildings, and paid homage to an incredible architectural museum of buildings on display every day.  Now, I’ll have to learn to look-up more often, since I’ve been missing out on some great architecture. :)

More information:  Event Horizon at Madison Square Park