Opinion

Please Stop: Trying to Save Times Square with Valentine’s Day Art

No amount of art or high design can redeem the cheesy holiday or neighborhood.

This year's winning commission, "Window to the Heart," by Aranda\Lasch + Marcelo Coelho. (Photo: Ian Douglas)

It’s that time again: The month when, in the name of Saint Valentine, a new Instagram opportunity—er, public art installation—sprouts in the middle of Times Square. Every year, Times Square Arts awards a different architecture or design firm the opportunity to beautify one of New York’s most avoided neighborhoods (by locals, anyway) with an original “artwork” inspired by the highly commercialized day of love. A decade into this Times Square Valentine Heart Design competition, and I still just don’t get it. Is it supposed to make Valentine’s Day more relevant? Times Square more redeemable? The impressive roster of winning designers would suggest as much, but even contributions from The Office for Creative Research, Bjarke Ingels Group, and Collective-LOK couldn’t save the culturally vapid holiday nor the overstimulating area. This year’s winning project, a 12-foot-wide, 3D-printed, rippled resin heart sculpture (think: commercial floor fan meets kitschy wind spinner) by Aranda\Lasch + Marcelo Coelho, was unveiled last week at Father Duffy Square (on view through Feb. 28). Alas, it joins its predecessors in being unable to offer anything more than another cheesy selfie prop. And maybe that’s all this commission has become. The website for Times Square Arts proudly touts how this 2018’s “Window to the Heart” installation adds to the already highly Instagrammed corridor of the city. If that’s the main reason it’s taking up space there, fine. But let’s not call it art.

Bjarke Ingels Groups' installation for the 2012 Times Square Valentine Heart Design competition. (Photo: Courtesy Times Square Arts)
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