Tom Otterness is one of America’s most famous—and controversial—artists. His sculptures have been featured at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, and the Guggenheim. Some of them can be found scattered throughout the 14th Street/8th Avenue subway station in a series called Life Underground. This 2006 work in Hell’s Kitchen, however, has a much different distinction: it doubles as a fully functioning children’s playground.
Playground by Tom Otterness is a 30-foot-long bronze sculpture of an elongated figure lounging in a small park at the foot of the Silver Towers in Manhattan. True to its name, the work’s legs double as two slides that neighborhood kids are free to zoom down after peering out of its head–a lookout tower 25 feet off the ground. The result is a work of art you can experience in the most literal sense of the word.
The New York Times has described Otterness’s art as “surprisingly effective metaphorically, emotionally and formally.” We’ll leave it to the art critics to decide if Playground fits that description, but it’s certainly effective at keeping children occupied more than your average masterpiece. Good luck climbing on a Rodin or swinging from the Sistine Chapel.
Know Before You Go
The Silver Towers Playground is open to the public.