“Art in Ad Places” Transforms City Sidewalks into a Gallery

Photo: Hope and Promise by Jamel Shabazz. Photo by Luna Park. Courtesy of Art in Ad Places.

“People are taking the piss out of you every day. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are ‘The Advertisers’ and they are laughing at you,” Banksy wrote in his 2004 book, Cut It Out.

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People intuitively sense this kind of neg, their egos becoming more increasingly defensive and critical while simultaneously entertaining the lengths advertisers will go to win them over. In the court of public opinion, the attention we are willing to give them serves as costs paid.

The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo by Nomi Chi. Photo by Luna Park.

Art in Ad Places, a New York City public service campaign, understands this, and has taken the high road by transforming the landscape with public art. Every week throughout 2017, the organization partners with a contemporary artist, installing their works in payphone kiosks across the city in order to reimagine the way we see the world.

Featured artists include Shepard Fairey, Jamel Shabazz, Adam Wallacavage, John Fekner, Molly Crabapple, Tod Seelie, Myles Loftin, Jim Houser, and Sam Horine, to name just a few. The results are wonderful natural and intuitive, as the city has always been a playground for the arts, the perfect canvas upon which to share your vision, tell your story, and leave your mark.

On their website, Art in Ad Places explains, “We believe…Outdoor advertising is psychologically damaging….[and] marks underutilized venues for other messages. By replacing advertisements with artworks, Art in Ad Places provides a public service and an alternative vision of our public environment.”

And, let’s face it, with the laws now in place against graffiti, the city has lost so much of its spark, as the fluid hand of the freethinker has been replaced by the calculating efforts of untold marketing departments whose creative departments reference classic artworks and photographs in their work.

Art in Art Places breaks the cycle of repetition, and inspires us to see with free eyes, discovering unexpected treats and unlikely surprises. Like…who knew phone kiosks were still in existence? In the age of digital communications they are something of relics of a bygone era, all the more perfect to become spaces for public art, transforming into works of anthropology of urban life right before our very eyes.

What’s more, the artists featured in the series offer positive, political, and highly accessible iconography that does not alienate or puzzle the average viewer. Instead they embrace the speed of life, and allow people to take a moment unto themselves. Art in Ad Spaces is a delightful reminder that within the never-ending onslaught of our daily lives, we can find pleasure and solace in getting away from it all, without missing a step down the path of life.

All artwork: Courtesy of Art in Ad Places.

Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.