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The 16 Best Free Public Art Installations in Lower Manhattan

By Hedy Phillips

November 27, 2023

Best Free Public Art Installations in Lower Manhattan

Next time you’re in Lower Manhattan, including Ground Zero, make time to explore all the art tucked into plazas and parks. 

There is so much art to be enjoyed throughout New York but especially in the southern tip of the city. Whether you’re strolling Battery Park or sitting on a bench in Liberty Park, there’s free public art around just about every corner.

I pulled together several of my favorite public art pieces that can be found in Lower Manhattan that you should check out during your next visit to the city, including statues, street art, sculptures, and more. I even provided directions for how to find them all.

Many of the sites are walking distance from the 9/11 Memorial, perfect if you’re taking our 9/11 Ground Zero Tour, and a few have a connection to 9/11, including Koenig’s Sphere, Jasper’s Split Star, and, of course, Arad’s “Reflecting Absence.” But there are many more.

And one of the best things about each of these spots is that the art is free to admire. Consider this your ultimate checklist for the best public art in Lower Manhattan.

Isamu Noguchi’s Red Cube

Isamu Noguchi's Red Cube

The Red Cube sculpture designed by Isamu Noguchi was installed in 1968. 

The steel structure, though called a cube, isn’t actually a cube at all. The rhombus shape stands on its corner in an optical illusion defying gravity. It invites tourists and locals alike to not only take photos but climb onto the structure (very carefully, though, as it is art after all).

Where to find it: 140 Broadway, between Liberty Street and Cedar Street

Group of Four Trees

 

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David Rockefeller commissioned this modernist sculpture from Jean Dubuffet that was completed in 1972. 

Resembling huge pen doodle statues, this sculpture shows abstract trees at their finest and stands proud in Fosun Plaza (which used to be One Chase Manhattan Plaza). The huge piece was made with aluminum, steel, fiberglass, and plastic resin covered with polyurethane paint. While it appears from afar to be black and white, there is color mixed in when you get up close.

Where to find it: Fosun Plaza, on the corner of Pine Street and William Street

2 World Trade Graffiti

 

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You can’t miss 2 World Trade Center. The building next to the Oculus is covered in sanctioned graffiti. 

It plays home to the Oculus Beer Garden seasonally and is also an entrance to the subway and PATH trains. There is street art all over the building and surrounding structure, including planters and fences, and it’s all tagged by artists who have left their mark.

Make sure you check out the whole block from every angle to see it all.

Where to find it: 2 World Trade Center, off Church Street, next to the Oculus

9/11 Memorial pools

9:11 Memorial pools

The 9/11 Memorial was designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker. The thought-provoking design, which encompasses the entire memorial, is called “Reflecting Absence.”

The memorial includes reflecting pools in the place where the Twin Towers once stood. It opened on Sept. 11, 2011, exactly 10 years after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. 

The pools each feature a 30-foot waterfall into a basin, and then that water falls another 20 feet into a smaller basin. Arad said the pools represent “absence made visible.”

Where to find it: Greenwich Street, between Liberty Street and Fulton Street

The SeaGlass Carousel

SeaGlass Carousel

The SeaGlass Carousel is like something out of a dream — and it’s not just for families. Designed by WXY architects, the aquatic-themed carousel features 30 fiberglass fish of different species and colors that spin and play music and are designed to mimic bioluminescence that you’d see in the ocean. 

Local tip: It’s $6 to ride the carousel and it’s not open every day. The hours change seasonally, so make sure you check the website ahead of time to see if it’s open.

The SeaGlass Carousel is a must-visit spot in Battery Park, especially if you have kids or enjoy photography. 

Where to find it: Inside Battery Park

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

NYC Vietnam Memorial

Credit: Ben Franske / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

Honoring those who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza was designed by Peter Wormser, William Fellows, and Joseph Ferrandino. 

In addition to gardens, a flagpole, and a fountain, it also has a memorial wall of glass blocks dedicated to the lives lost during the Vietnam War. 

Where to find it: 55 Water St.

American Merchant Mariners Memorial

 

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Designed by artist Marisol Escobar, this statue sits right on the water and features mariners in their boat as a tribute to the many who served. 

Two figures stand in the boat, while one reaches down to grab onto another who is still in the water, honoring those who’ve died at sea. It’s a powerful sculpture with the water as its backdrop.

Where to find it: Inside Battery Park, near Castle Clinton

Rudolph de Harak Clock

Rudolph de Harak Clock

Rudolph de Harak designed the giant digital clock housed over the Starbucks on this street corner. 

At any time of day, it’ll tell you the time — though it looks like it’s just a huge display of numbers.

Rudolph de Harak Clock

The clock is always running, so you can check it out at any time, and your best view is from across the street (with your Starbucks in hand!).

Where to find it: Corner of John Street and Water Street

Joie de Vivre

The 70-foot sculpture known as Joie de Vivre was designed by Mark di Suvero. 

The huge red piece of art looks like large sticks standing on the street corner and was relocated into this Lower Manhattan park from its previous location near the Holland Tunnel. It’s a fun photo op while you’re walking around town.

Where to find it: Inside Zuccotti Park

5 in 1

5 in 1 sculpture

Continuing the trend of red sculptures, Artist Tony Rosenthal’s 5 in 1 art piece looks like several large red discs intertwined and standing on end. The steel sculpture weighs 75,000 pounds and was commissioned by New York City. 

It’s called 5 in 1 to symbolize the five New York boroughs and was installed in 1974. 

Where to find it: Across Park Row from 1 Police Plaza

Wall Street Charging Bull

Wall Street Charging Bull

One of the most well-known art pieces in all of New York City, Wall Street’s Charging Bull was designed by Arturo Di Modica. 

Di Modica initially parked the bull outside the New York Stock Exchange Building in 1989 in the dark of night illegally, inspired by the 1987 stock market crash. The police removed it but it was later moved to Bowling Green completely legally. It was originally made in Brooklyn, and Di Modica spent nearly $400,000 casting it. 

It has since become a symbol for Wall Street known around the world.

Where to find it: Bowling Green park, where Broadway splits and reaches Battery Park

Congressman John Watts Statue

Congressman John Watts Statue

Credit: Gryffindor / CC BY-SA 3.0

The John Watts statue designed by George Edwin Bissell looms large in the Trinity Church cemetery compared to the other tombstones surrounding it.

It’s been there since 1893, when Watts’ grandson, John Watts de Peyster, had it installed. He’s made of bronze and towers more than 9 feet tall. Why so big? It’s said the younger Watts had the statue put up to keep his grandfather’s memory alive.

Where to find it: 75 Broadway, in the cemetery on the left side of the church when you’re facing the front

Shadows and Flags

Shadows and Flags

This public art installation opened in 1977 with seven massive black sculptures commissioned by the city and designed by Louise Nevelson. The plaza was named after the artist and has seen a few iterations over the years. 

Though Nevelson is no longer living, her sculptures, which she created to be botanical shapes, are still standing in the plaza — though they’ve moved around a few times — and visitors can come see them, take photos, and sit on one of the many benches in the plaza and relax near them.

Where to find it: Louise Nevelson Plaza, bound by Liberty Street, Maiden Lane, and William Street

The Sphere

The Sphere

The bronze sphere designed by Fritz Koenig once stood between the Twin Towers and survived the 9/11 terrorist attack. Though it now looks a little worse for wear (it was once a perfect sphere), it’s still quite intact considering the destruction it saw in 2001. 

It was first installed in New York City in 1971 at the World Trade Center as a symbol of “world peace through trade.” After it was recovered from the rubble following 9/11, it was stored at JFK airport before being brought to Battery Park. A new base was created for the mangled sphere at its permanent home in Liberty Park overlooking the 9/11 Memorial.

Local tip: There are plenty of benches in Liberty Park and not a lot of foot traffic, making it a great place to sit and have a coffee or eat lunch while you take in the view. 

If you’re taking our 9/11 Ground Zero walking tour, you’ll see and learn about this sculpture on your tour.

Where to find it: Liberty Park, a raised park that runs alongside the 9/11 reflecting pools on Liberty Street between the westside highway and Greenwich Street

Double Check

 

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This bronze statue was designed by John Seward Johnson II and is simply a businessman sitting on a bench with his briefcase. 

He was created in 1982 and moved a handful of times before finding his permanent home on his current bench outside the office building in Lower Manhattan. You’ll often find people leaving notes in his briefcase and sometimes people associate him with 9/11, though he has no relation to the terrorist attack.

Where to find it: On a bench outside One Liberty Plaza near Zuccotti Park

Jasper’s Split Star

 

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Jasper’s Split Star, designed by Frank Stella, was created after two of the artist’s paintings were destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

The two paintings were hanging in 7 WTC, and Jasper’s Split Star is an homage to them. It’s a 12-point star nestled in a fountain near the new 7 WTC.  

Where to find it: Inside the fountain at Silverstein Family Park in front of 7 World Trade Center 

More to see in Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan

There’s plenty more to see in Lower Manhattan. There are always temporary art installations sprinkled around the area you might happen upon while you’re walking around. 

Once you feel like you’ve seen everything, branch out and check out everything else in the area, like One World Observatory or the South Street Seaport, or join us on one of our local-led walking tours of Ground Zero.

By Hedy Phillips

November 27, 2023

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