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A View from the High Line: Perfect Spot for Knox’s Nixed Mural?

Inadequately adorned wall, facing the High Line. Calling Knox Martin!

Those of you who read my Twitter tweets know that one of the places I visited during my Labor Day Weekend Staycation was the High Line, Diller Scofidio+ Renfro‘s brilliant transformation (with a major assist from James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architects) of New York’s derelict elevated train tracks into a glorious urban park. [CLARIFICATIONAn associate with James Corner wrote to point out that the landscape architects, not DS+R, got top billing on this project.]

I did not have the good fortune to witness any of the “amateur skin shows” that the Lauren Collins of the New Yorker informs us can be spied through “the floor-to-ceiling windows of the new Standard Hotel, at Thirteenth Street.” Nor did I feel a bit of nostalgia for the site’s former seediness, as does the NY TimesAshley Gilbertson, who found herself “wishing that the High Line had never been touched,” and tried, unsuccessfully, to prove her point by juxtaposing before-and-after photos of the straightaway.

I took delight in the delight of the perambulators—mostly young adults but surprisingly few young children (perhaps because of the raunchy sideshow described by the Times?). I particularly appreciated the clever integration of the rusted tracks, overgrown with weed-like plantings, into a thoroughly modern, scruffily groomed oasis.

Here’s a particularly complex interaction of tracks and plantings.


I loved the mishmash of the city’s high-and-low—ambitious architecture peeking out from behind the immediate area’s nondescript boxy buildings:


Below are some of the happy ramblers. Behind them, to the northwest, loom Frank Gehry‘s IAC building and 100 Eleventh Avenue, Jean Nouvel‘s luxury apartment building, which is still under construction (the tallest building in the photo):


Along the way you get views of savvy product placement:

View through the picture window of an exhibition of sculpture by Nils Folke Anderson at Phillips de Pury & Company, the art auction house

But there are also views of tacky product placement:


Billboard for Armani Exchange, chockablock with the High Line

The Friends of the High Line should do what they can to acquire that commercial ad space, repurposing it for a series of temporary artworks, in keeping with the High Line’s mission of transforming an eyesore into an eyeful.

Speaking of site-specific murals, how about using the blank space below for “Place Your Art Here”?


Brick wall directly opposite the High Line, invitingly bare, save for graffiti at the bottom corner (Jean Nouvel’s 100 Eleventh Avenue, further west, is on the left.)

Here’s another photo from the High Line of a portion of that bare wall (on the left), with a view down the street:


Wait a minute! What’s that building to the west, at the end of the block?  Why it’s…


…the women’s prison that (as I detailed in a previous post) had allowed muralist Knox Martin to adorn one of its bare walls with this…

Knox Martin, “Venus,” 1970

That mural, as I previously recounted, was recently obstructed by Nouvel’s tower, re-signed by the artist, and reduced to a sliver:


Wouldn’t it be artistic justice if the owners of the bare-walled building (who are now seeking to capitalize on High Line cachet by leasing their ground floor for galleries and shops) allowed the blank bricks to be enlivened by a new version of Knox’s obliterated oeuvre? I don’t know what the artist himself might think of this idea, but I’d urge the Public Art Fund (whose precursor, City Walls, sponsored the original mural) to try to get this project going while the feisty octogenarian artist is around to oversee the Rebirth of Venus.

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