The High Line in New York gets roughly 7 million visitors per year, both locals and tourists alike. Since its opening in 2009, it has become one of the most famous urban parks in the world—particularly for those who love art, and the regular public art exhibitions there.
Now, a bit of the High Line is due to travel north in the form of “New Monuments for New Cities.” This poster-based public art exhibition is the inaugural project of the High Line Network Joint Art Initiative—a collaboration between the High Line and four other industrial reuse projects in North America, including Toronto’s Bentway. “New Monuments for New Cities” will be at the Bentway from May to August 2019, before it even debuts on the High Line itself in the fall.
“The High Line Network formed a few years back, when the organization recognized there were a lot of commonalities between different industrial reuse projects in North America,” says Ilana Altman, director of programming at the Bentway. “It has been particularly useful in starting a conversation about equity development and engagement at these sites.”
A year ago, some High Line Network members—which also, besides the High Line and the Bentway, include Houston’s Buffalo Bayou, Austin’s Waller Creek andChicago’s 606—started to have a conversation about doing joint public art projects. For the first such project, each organization selected five local artists to participate and create a poster related to monuments and monumentality. The result is “New Monuments for New Cities.”
The five Toronto-based artists involved in “New Monuments for New Cities” are Susan Blight, Coco Guzman, Life of a Craphead, An Te Liu and Quentin VerCetty. Their work will join posters by the Guerrilla Girls, Hans Haacke and Xaviera Simmons, among others, in the roving project.
“The project is focused on ongoing debates about monumentality and representation of the collective, and how we choose to commemorate our civic identity,” says Altman. Though the Bentway site itself—1.75 kilometres of underused space under Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway—is not home to any traditional bronze monuments, it is located on lands of the Fort York National Historic Site, where legacies of colonization including the War of 1812 are commemorated. “This project is about which histories we choose to hold up, and which ones we choose to hold up in the process of creating monuments,” Altman adds. “I think it is very timely given debates in the States about Confederate monuments and ones here about colonial monuments, too.”
Though the format of the artwork in the project is expressly temporary, that’s a conscious choice. “In many ways, the poster format is a direct comment on the bronze statues we typically think of when we think of monuments,” says Altman. “We are asking artist to work with a more ephemeral form. The series of 25 poster works will be presented differently from site to site, but at the Bentway we will be displaying it across our [expressway] columns.”
The Bentway has also done other compelling public art projects of late, including the installation of Sans facon‘s Iconic Site sign earlier this year, a run now extended to February 2019. The Bentway also hosted IdeasCity with New York’s New Museum this fall. But this is its first art collaboration with the High Line Network.
“New Monuments for New Cities” will show at Houston’s Buffalo Bayou from February to April 2019, at Austin’s Waller Creek from March to May 2019, at Chicago’s 606 from May to July 2019, at Toronto’s Bentway from May to August 2019 and at New York’s High Line from September to October 2019.