Grate Sound Art - Times Square
New York, New York
Every year millions of people ignore Max Neuhaus' artwork. Of course there are many artists whose work is ignored by millions, but usually not in the middle of Times Square...
Neuhaus (who died in 2009) worked with "sound installations." And if you walk over a certain metal grating on a well-trod asphalt triangle in Times Square you may notice a distinctive noise coming from below ground: a sonorous hum that resembles the echoing aftermath of someone hitting a super-sized gong. This is "Times Square," his most famous creation.
It was intentionally left unmarked, with no informational plaque about who made it or why, because he wanted people to discover it on their own. And as the workings are invisible (with no obvious speakers in sight) most pedestrians take no notice of the sonics. We watched for a good twenty minutes and didn't see anyone slow down.
When we chose to gaze down into the vaulted space sub-sidewalk, passersby followed our lead. Then they shrugged and moved on (by the way, the accumulation of thousands of cigarette butts down below creates an unintentional visual counterpoint to the "official" artwork).
It seems that even when the occasional passerby notices the pleasant reverberations, they chalk it up to mechanical noise from the subway.
Originally installed in 1977, the piece subtly entertained eardrums for fifteen years, until it was disconnected in 1992. Times Square was just a wee bit quieter for a decade's time -- not that anyone noticed -- until it was reactivated in 2002.
So if you're ever crossing "The Crossroads of the World," take a moment to pause and listen to Neuhaus' meditative masterwork...it's grate!