Through its Percent for Art program and other initiatives, New York City has enriched the public realm with art that inspires and provokes.
Since 1982, the city’s Percent for Art law has required that one percent of the budget for eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on public artwork. Spanish artist Iñigo Manglano Ovalle’s Portrait of a Young Reader, installed on the main staircase of the Bronx Library Center, is an exemplary work that uses the built environment as a platform allowing us to see our world anew.
A project of the New York Public Library and the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, the glass-and-steel relief sculpture is composed of 3,000 three-inch-diameter colored glass cylinders mounted on perforated metal backing. The pattern and palette of the installation was determined by a DNA sample taken from an anonymous young reader. Integrated seamlessly into the building, designed by Richard Dattner and Partners Architects, the work draws visitors back into their own readerly past: as the artist noted, “the resulting DNA will be of an unknown young reader, but also a representative portrait of all young participants and a reminder that all of us were once young readers.”
The work received a 2005 Award for Excellence in Design from the New York City Public Design Commission.
Image credit: Courtesy Percent for Art