If you find yourself in Times Square, downtown Brooklyn, or at Westfield World Trade Center in New York City, you may be surprised to see those spaces’ ubiquitous ads for soft drinks, fast fashion, and electronics swapped for poignant and gorgeous video art. The switch, part of a citywide exhibition called Commercial Break, kicks off Public Art Fund‘s 40th anniversary season with disruptive, artful advertisements taking over the city’s largest and most technologically advanced screens. Curated by Associate Curators Emma Enderby and Daniel S. Palmer, Commercial Break features 23 artists whose work can be seen on billboards in Times Square, the 360-degree “Oculus” screen outside Barclays Center, 19 digital screens at Westfield World Trade Center, hundreds of LinkNYC kiosks all over the city, and embedded as pop-up “ads” on PublicArtFund.org.
The idea for Commercial Break sprang from Public Art Fund’s formative exhibition series Messages to the Public , which ran on an 800-square-foot animated Spectacolor screen in Times Square from 1982 to 1990. Every month, one of 70 different artists, including Jenny Holzer, Guerilla Girls, and Alfredo Jaar, presented a 30-second animation within a 20-minute loop of commercials. The intent of the project was similar to that of Commercial Break: fighting propaganda by means of propaganda. The artists this time around had to confront time limits and embrace brevity. Their challenge is cutting through a litany of information surrounding outdoor advertising by relying solely on visual language.
Commercial Break is on view through March 5. For a full rundown of Public Art Fund’s 40th anniversary programming, visit their website.
You can read much more, and see more about this fantastic art project at The Creators Project.