“I think of the bagel as a great symbol that unites the people of New York from every demographic. Bagels are everywhere, for every class and race and in every part of the city.”
—Hanna Liden (1976– Swedish artist)
Hanna Linden sees the bagel as a democratic food. She ate her first bagel when she moved to New York from Sweden. “It was 1998,” she recalls. “Which I know because that’s when I moved here. I don’t remember what the shop was called, but I know that it was in the Meatpacking District. I got a plain bagel with lox cream cheese and then I walked to this park on Hudson and I ate it there.” Measuring four feet in diameter, and made not of flour but of industrial foam, coated with polyurethane, these quintessential symbols of New York City have been stacked high, low, and singularly to create art.
Titled “Everything,” this public-art project is presented by the Art Production Fund and Kiehl’s, the skincare company doing business in New York since 1851. The project can be seen at two locations, one each at either end of Christopher Street, the heart of the West Village. Liden regards Christopher Street as an “important passage way for so many people from so many places.”
The main display venue is Hudson River Park, the longest riverfront park in the United States; it is located at the western end of Christopher Street and the West Side Highway. The bagel sculptures will remain there through October 20th. The other display is a few blocks east at the start of Christopher Street in Ruth Wittenberg Plaza, bordered by Sixth Avenue, West Ninth Street and Greenwich Avenue; it will remain on view there until August 24th.
Because one of the venues for Everything is where Liden ate her first bagel, it could be said that art and artist have come full circle with circle-shaped food. The open-air, street locations suit Liden just fine. She describes artwork that is exhibited in galleries and museums, such as MoMA, as drawing a limited audience, maybe a few tourists. With her work out on the street, the exhibit reaches a wider viewing public. Placing the over-sized bagels in a square and a park is meant to engage everyone: workers, commuters, residents and visitors.
The inspiration for the sculptures came to Liden by way of her own photography, which is her original artistic medium. A showing of her photographs was held at New York’s Maccarone Gallery in the spring of 2014. The still life photos depicted found objects, such a water bottle, a shoe, a deli bag, serving as flower vases. Linden’s work often deals with debris from delis and the messy business of city living. Amongst the objects was a stack of bagels, spray-painted black, with a tulip stuck in the center. The layer of black spray paint on the bagels is meant to change what is pure into Gothic punk; this represents impurities that add to the character to the city.
To create the ring-shaped carbohydrate Liden employed a casting process, using industrial Styrofoam and polyurethane, to replicate and modify a standard-sized bagel into these large-scale versions of the breakfast favorite. “If you knock on it, it feels like a boat,” Liden claims. Because of the size of the sculptures, Liden needed to collaborate with others. Because she ordinarily works solo, this was a different experience for her. She hopes it will be a different experience for the public, too. That is why she expanded her photo of the bagel vase into a three-dimensional version. She believes a sculpture is more engaging, “it’s more of a physical experience” than something flat. Liden sees Everything as a work of art with a sense of humor; she hopes it will bring a laugh and smile to its audience.
Guests on two of our tours, the Greenwich Village Walking Tour and the Gay Village Walking Tour, delighted in the surprising sight of Everything. Each tour includes Ruth Wittenberg Plaza, near the Jefferson Market Library at Sixth Avenue and West Tenth Street.
“The bagel—a circle with no beginning and no end—is evocative of the eternal cycle of city life. The black spray paint is a romantic tribute to the darkness and grime, which are essential and beautiful characteristics of our city.”