Art Hiding in New York

An Illustrated Guide to the City's Secret Masterpieces


By Lori Zimmer

By Maria Krasinski

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Uncover the artistic masterworks hidden across New York City in this charmingly illustrated exploration of one of the world's greatest creative treasure troves.

There's so much to love about New York, and so much to see. The city is full of art, and architecture, and history — and not just in museums. Hidden in plain sight, in office building lobbies, on street corners, and tucked into Soho lofts, there's a treasure trove of art waiting to be discovered, and you don't need an art history degree to fall in love with it.

Art Hiding in New York is a beautiful, giftable book that explores all of these locations, traversing Manhattan to bring 100 treasures to art lovers and intrepid New York adventurers. Curator and urban explorer Lori Zimmer brings readers along to sites covering the biggest names of the 20th century — like Jean-Michel Basquiat's studio, iconic Keith Haring murals, the controversial site of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, Roy Lichtenstein's subway station commission, and many more. Each entry is accompanied by a beautiful watercolor depiction of the work by artist Maria Krasinski, as well as location information for those itching to see for themselves. With stunning details, perfect for displaying on any art lover's shelf, and curated itineraries for planning your next urban exploration, this inspirational book is a must-read for those who love art, New York, and, of course, both.



Ten years ago, I was unceremoniously fired from my Chelsea gallery job following the market crash of 2008. No one was hiring anywhere, especially in the art world. Refusing to leave my field—and with newfound time on my hands—I started a ritual of research to keep my artistic sanity. I’d spend the mornings applying for jobs, then the afternoons wandering around New York, taking note of sculptures, paintings, and architecture that I had been too busy to pay close attention to before. Like a true nerd, I jotted down my findings in a spreadsheet, then researched each place online or at the beautiful New York Public Library next to Bryant Park. As my findings grew, so did my obsession. I wanted to know where the artists I’d admired in university classes had lived, eaten dinner, and gathered together to discuss their work.

I never did find another job, but my project ended up becoming the beginning of the rest of my life. I turned my findings into a (now retired) blog called Art Nerd New York, which gained traction in the early 2010s and launched my writing and curating career. I’d always toyed with making my obsession into a book, but it was only after visiting my childhood friend Maria Krasinski in Tbilisi, Georgia, that I decided to truly go for it. Maria and I met when we were nine years old and had spent years traveling the world in search of art and architecture together, but I had no idea she was an artist until she showed me her drawings of Tbilisi one night in my Airbnb. I was so inspired at that moment that I decided I must write a book about art history in New York and she must illustrate it. I somehow convinced her to have total faith in this project and to draw over one hundred illustrations with no promise of publication. We spent a year working on this book together, in cafés in Tbilisi and Paris, in the social club The Wing in New York, and in our hometown of Buffalo. It was completed during a dark year for me personally—while recovering physically from donating my left kidney to a friend and then emotionally from my dad’s death two weeks later, working on and finishing this book became my light. This book is as much an extension of Maria as it is myself and an homage to our shared love of art and history. We are thrilled that our agent Lindsay Edgecombe from Levine Greenberg Rostan first believed in us and beyond excited that editor Shannon Connors Fabricant from Running Press felt the same way. We hope that you will sense the magic that we did while researching this book.

It is nearly impossible to imagine a Manhattan without the rising skyscrapers, tenements, and, more recently, glass towers that cram into every block of the grid. But a snippet of the Manhattan of the early sixteenth century is alive and well on the corner of LaGuardia Place and West Houston… at least 1,000 square feet of it. Nestled in a fenced-in plot along the sidewalk is Land Artist Alan Sonfist’s 1965 masterpiece, Time Landscape.

The blooming foliage behind the fence looks like a typical city garden, a tiny portion of flora that New Yorkers consider wild space. But Sonfist’s garden means so much more than a regular swath of green might, as it transposes a slice of precolonial Manhattan back to where it once was. The piece represents a rendition of the indigenous forest that would have flourished long before this corner saw the Lenapes, the Dutch, the Irish, industrialization, bohemian artists, designer shops, or the growing number of tourists that flock to New York each year.

The small patch of greenery is a lens into the past, set within an appropriately modern area of just 1,000 square feet. The forest of Ye Olde Manhattan features a small grove of beech trees—grown from saplings transplanted from Sonfist’s favorite childhood park in the Bronx—and a woodland of red cedar, black cherry, and witch hazel above ground cover of mugwort, Virginia creeper, aster, pokeweed, and milkweed. The northern area of the piece is a mature woodland dominated by oaks, with scattered white ash and American elm trees. Among the numerous other species in this mini forest are sassafras, sweet gum, and tulip trees, arrowwood and dogwood shrubs, bindweed and catbrier vines, and violets. Experiencing the piece in spring is a feast for the senses to say the least.

Alan Sonfist, Time Landscape, 1965, corner of Houston and LaGuardia Place

Manhattan’s most famous private green space, Gramercy Park, taunts passersby with tourist-free benches, lush foliage, and tranquil paths. In addition to urban zen, the perfectly manicured park boasts its very own Alexander Calder sculpture—meant for keyholders only. Called Janey Waney, the oversize mobile was commissioned in 1969 by—and thus named for—Warhol star “Baby Jane” Holzer. Holzer initially saw a small version of the sculpture at Calder’s studio and asked for a larger-than-life version for the Smith Haven Mall on Long Island, which was developed by her then-husband. The mobile was originally placed in Gramercy Park on a one-year loan in 2011 by neighbor and president of the Calder Foundation Alexander S. C. Rower, but is now a permanent fixture here in between its European tours.

The piece is classic Calder. Its bright yellow, blue, and white pieces gently sway over an orange trunk-like base with the rustle of the breeze. But never mind that—this Calder is not meant for you! Since 1844, Gramercy Park has been closed to the public as a private urban oasis reserved for the residents of the expensive town houses that line its perimeter, accessible only by key.

Despite being closed off to the public, you can peer at Janey Waney through the thick foliage and flowers from the sidewalk just outside the historic wrought-iron fence, like an arty Peeping Tom. If you stand on your tippy-toes, you can almost feel like you’re inside the park. (The neighbors love it when you do that.) Occasionally, the sculpture gets to break free from its gilded prison and see the world—it has traveled to Amsterdam and Paris, but always finds its way back.

Alexander Calder, Janey Waney, 1969, Gramercy Park

Ah, the beauty of window dressing! It’s a surprising art form that can transform a walk down the street into a fantastical escape. The elegant Bergdorf Goodman is one of the only historic luxury department stores left in New York and, along with its top-tier goods, comes a breath of artistic air. The window displays here are by far the best in the city, if not the world, consistently weaving whimsical narratives with incredible vintage props, contemporary clothing, and the occasional borrowed master painting.

Bergdorf Goodman first opened in 1901 when tailor Herman Bergdorf took on apprentice Edwin Goodman. Their first shop was on 32nd Street, and they later moved to a large department store in 1914, on the site of what is now Rockefeller Center. The current location opened on the west side of Fifth Avenue in 1928, on the site of the razed Cornelius Vanderbilt mansion, which was then the largest private residence in New York.

People travel from all over the world to see the store’s famous Christmas windows, but each holiday is equally impressive thanks to the vision of Senior Director David Hoey, who can take up to six years to plan and execute one theme! With the incredible quality (and number!) of props available to him, it is easy to believe that.

Visiting the windows late at night, long after the shopping droves have gone home, is truly a magical experience and an opportunity to appreciate every luxurious detail without interruption.

Bergdorf Goodman Windows, 754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street

An unassuming door beneath a striped awning on Baruch College’s campus guards corridor upon corridor of original art. Art hotels have popped up across the globe, giving guests a private view of original works with their overnight stay. The Carlton Arms was one of the first places to fuse art with accommodation, and what it lacks in luxury it makes up for in creative spirit. The hotel was originally an SRO (single resident occupancy, basically a bedroom with a sink) full of all sorts of unsavory characters in the early 1980s. The hotel’s manager at the time, Ed Ryan, decided to switch gears and make the hotel a happy place—rather than a home for the destitute. Ryan hired starving artists as front desk employees, and when the artists asked if they could paint murals throughout the five-story building, the art hotel idea was born. Since 1984, the Carlton Arms has literally changed from squalor to living art installation, thanks to the rotation of artists who have passed through its fifty-four rooms.

With art in every nook and cranny—down to the skeleton in the lobby—the hotel feels like a time machine to the old New York, complete with grit and a shared bathroom down the hall. It isn’t shiny and new, but welcoming and clean, and captures the spirit of the bohemian, making visitors feel a part of something magical just by sleeping there.

The rates at the Carlton Arms are probably among the cheapest in New York, which is especially surprising since it is located only a few blocks from Gramercy Park. If you’re not up for an overnight, you can ask the front desk for a walk through or attend one of their opening receptions, which happen a few times a year.

The Carlton Arms Art Hotel, 160 East 25th Street

Did you know you can summon a secret rain forest beneath Manhattan’s concrete jungle with just a wave of your hand? Stretching along the platform of the 34th Street N/R subway lines below the always busy Herald Square are a row of ordinary looking green metal ducts. But these ducts have no utilitarian purpose. Instead, they are the key to an immersive experience begging to be touched: artist Christopher Janney’s Reach! Since 1995, the inconspicuous installation has surprised straphangers awaiting the train by bringing forth a melody of nature and instrumental sounds that swirls through the subway grit.

Along the ducts, motion sensors inside eight “eyes” activate sounds that interrupt the regular commuter hustle and bustle—bursts of flutes, marimbas, animal calls, and environmental “sound images” which evoke places like the Everglades or the Amazon rain forest. Each eye enlivens a different sound, which together can be played like a giant urban instrument. The sounds are updated each year to create a new dialogue between the two platforms—but more importantly between commuters and their urban environment.

Christopher Janney, Reach, 1995, 34th Street Subway Station (N & R Line)

A curvaceous gentleman and buxom woman by Fernando Botero are awaiting you in a shopping center at Columbus Circle! Trained as a matador and set designer, Botero has declared himself the “most Colombian of Colombian artists” and has flourished since he moved to Spain in the 1950s. Voluptuous bodies like these have become his calling card. His large bronzes are scattered in public spots around the globe, and in New York they greet shoppers at each of two escalators in the mall-like Time Warner Center.

The ample couple, Adam & Eve, tower over visitors, each standing twelve feet tall. Eve may be a little jealous, as public attention seems to focus on Adam, his private parts, and an insatiable desire to touch him! Visitors’ fondling of Adam’s nether region is not only a prime photo op; it has also left the patina gold and shiny! Feel free to experience it for yourself, but you may want to keep some hand sanitizer close by.

Fernando Botero, Adam & Eve, 1990, Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle

If you don’t look down, you might miss a major work of art beneath your feet on Greene Street! The brassy Subway Map Floating on a New York Sidewalk was installed by Francoise Schein in 1985 directly into the Soho sidewalk. The piece was commissioned by real estate developer Tony Goldman, who wanted to beautify the area in front of his building. Back then Soho was usually deserted at night, a hodgepodge of illegal lofts and industrial businesses, so Schein’s piece really stood out in contrast with the near-empty streets around it.

The piece may be called a map, but don’t try to find your way around the city with it! The ninety-foot bending subway “lines” stretch in a fantastical pattern, meant to flow like veins in the body, rather than accurately replicate the MTA system. The sculpture, viewed on the ground, is illuminated at night with LED lights embedded in the ceilings of adjacent buildings’ basements, making it an entirely different sparkling experience at night. Although the Soho of today is dense with specialty stores and luxury apartments, the illuminated sculpture must have been a gorgeous sight in the dark and sparsely populated street of the 1980s.

Francoise Schein, Subway Map Floating on a New York Sidewalk, 1985, 110 Greene Street

In the 1980s, the Port Authority was more or less a battle zone, rife with pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers and adjacent to a score of porn theaters. Despite its undesirable location, two million commuters passed through its halls and gates each day, working jobs in the city for a better life for their families.

In 1980, George Segal created The Commuters as a tribute to these tireless souls. Segal’s work is not so much a monument as it is simply a snapshot in sculptural form. The three bronze figures, painted in white patina, are displayed on the floor, rather than on a pedestal as you would experience a rarified monument. His subjects seem tired and rumpled, transfixed in a perpetual line, awaiting a bus that will take them away back to their suburban homes—or may never come at all.

Although New York is a much different place now, the figures are still relatable, showing the all-too-familiar fatigue that commuters endured then and now. Their context has shifted, from an act of escaping the danger of Manhattan to the modern reality of not being able to afford to live in it.

George Segal, The Commuters, 1980, Port Authority Bus Terminal, 625 Eighth Avenue

Keith Haring’s life was short but bright (he died in 1990 at thirty-one). The artist left an everlasting impression on our culture, helping to elevate street art and graffiti into the world of fine art. Haring lived in New York for just twelve years, arriving in the summer of 1978 to study painting at the School of Visual Arts and remaining a resident until his death. In those twelve years he made his mark, both figuratively and literally, across the city. A few of those pieces remain, keeping Haring’s spirit alive and new generations of art lovers intrigued.

New York is constantly reinventing itself, but evidence of its past lives remains—both good and bad. The New York of the 1980s was a cutting-edge art scene, thriving with creativity, as much as it was a struggling city with a raging crack cocaine epidemic. In 1986 Keith Haring, always an art activist, transformed this handball court on 128th Street and Second Avenue into a warning after his studio assistant Benny became addicted to crack.

Haring often drove by the double-sided handball court, and one day he decided to paint an illegal mural to illustrate his frustration with the country’s apparent indifference to addiction. In bold orange and Haring’s signature enigmatic lines, the mural’s message confronts motorists reentering the city after an upstate excursion, pleading for recognition of the drug that plagued many New Yorkers. Although we love to glamorize the “creativity and downtown scene” of the ’80s, Haring’s piece reminds us that the city was also a war zone, with crime and drugs running rampant around the near-rubble of the Lower East Side.

The Crack is Wack mural is one of the best surviving murals that Haring produced illegally, which is ironic considering the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation was behind its restoration and protection. At the time, Haring was arrested for the graffiti after he finished it, but the mural’s popularity and media attention got the charges against him dropped and his fine reduced to just $100.

Keith Haring, Crack is Wack, 1986, East 128th Street at Second Avenue

In the hot summer of 1987, things really started to sizzle at the Carmine Street Pool (now the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center) in the West Village. Imagine it: One of the most brutal days in August saw a typical scene of locals crowding the pool to seek refuge from the heat. But this day was one for the history books; while locals cooled off, Keith Haring painted a massive mural and DJ Junior Vasquez spun beats poolside.

The legendary event happened at the peak of Haring’s career, but the artist continued to give back to the community until his death. Haring has said that the day painting the 170-foot mural “was one of the most incredible situations” he’d ever been in, and his frolicking dolphins, fish, and mer-creatures continue to enrapture swimmers and visitors today.

Keith Haring, Carmine Street Pool Mural, 1987, 1 Clarkson Street

One of Keith Haring’s final public works in New York was perhaps one of his most personal. It portrayed the artist’s celebration of sexual freedom, as well as an explicit and energetic commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Painted in 1989, the black-and-white mural snakes around the bathroom of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, its location chosen purposefully to tell the story of the sexual cruising of the gay community in the 1980s.

By 1989, HIV and AIDS had taken hold of the young artist and much of his community, turning Haring into an outspoken advocate for safe sex. Instead of condemning particular behaviors, this piece celebrates sex. Haring’s signature bold-lined figures contort in erotic delight, with a multitude of body parts and bodily fluids spewing in the shapes of Haring’s typical male figures. The massive piece reeks of orgasmic pleasure, but its title, Once Upon a Time, hints at a melancholy, perhaps looking back to the days of sexual “freedom” before the consequences of the AIDS epidemic devastated New York.

Although the space has been converted into a meeting room, the mural still holds its weight in sexual fantasy and has been lovingly restored by the center.

Keith Haring, Once Upon a Time, 1989, LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street

When Keith Haring finally succumbed to the physical impact of HIV, he made one last work of art. In January of 1990, just one month before his death, Haring tackled an unlikely subject for him—religion. The bronze five by eight–foot triptych altarpiece is finished in white gold leaf and shows scenes from the life of Christ in classic Haring style. The piece weighs a hefty six hundred pounds and was produced as an edition of nine, with two artist’s proofs (the rest of the series is dispersed in museums and churches around the globe). In the center of the triptych Haring’s iconic baby figure becomes an infant Christ, held in a series of outstretched arms. Instead of the usual serenity associated with images of the Birth of Christ, Haring’s piece feels aggressive, with the witnesses to the birth seeming to move with flailing arms and clenched fists. Perhaps this feeling of unrest comes from the last moments of desperation Haring felt, as the artist realized that HIV/AIDS would get the better of him. In that way, the piece is very, very sad.

St. John Divine is a magnificent, suitable venue for Haring’s last piece. It is the largest cathedral in the world (St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, is bigger, but not a cathedral) and was built in the early 1900s. The church is also known for its interfaith tradition and acceptance, dedication to art (they hold modern exhibitions), and nonreligious community workshops (like an annual reading of Dante’s Inferno)—all the makings of the perfect setting for Haring’s last piece to live on.

Keith Haring, The Life of Christ, 1990, Cathedral of St. John Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue

The swirls traced into the sidewalk in front of 25 Bond Street aren’t the work of a gang of stick-wielding neighborhood kids marking up the wet concrete in a construction zone.

The flowing grooves were incised into the gorgeous Chinese granite sidewalk in 2008 by Japanese sculptor Ken Hiratsuka, in “a single continuous line carving chiseled by hand, guided by a fluid, oceanic imagery” for his piece River. The artist has been carving continuous lines around the world as a way to transcend the language of each region and create what he calls “fossils of the moment” (how lovely is that?).


On Sale
Sep 22, 2020
Page Count
280 pages
Running Press

Lori Zimmer

About the Author

Lori Zimmer is a New York-based author, curator and amateur historian. She is the author of five books: Art Hiding in Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the City of Light (Running Press, 2022),  Art Hiding in New York: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Secret Masterpieces (Running Press, 2020), Logan Hicks: Still New York (Workhorse Press, 2022), The Art of Spray Paint (Rockport, 2017), and The Art of Cardboard (Rockport, 2015).  Zimmer is passionate about travel, food, and artists’ rights- she consults as an artist liaison in copyright infringement cases for Kushnirsky Gerber PLLC.

Maria Krasinski is an illustrator, designer, and aspiring accordionist. She's worked in public diplomacy, media literacy, and arts education in Chicago, Paris, Tbilisi, and Washington, D.C. Most recently she came in second place on Jeopardy!, where she answered a French art history clue wrong.

Learn more about this author