Some people say art is about breaking down walls — but in Coney Island it's about building them.
For the second year in a row, realty firm Thor Equities is opening up one of its unused properties for an outdoor street art gallery called Coney Art Walls.
The 34 walls erected in an empty lot feature street art in every imagine style and theme. There are creepy one-eyed ice cream cones, entrancing abstract lettering, fabulous bursting fire hydrants rendered larger than life, realistic renderings and colorful cartoons.
"It's basically a full city block," Josh Greenwald, a Thor spokesperson, told the Daily News. The walls are visible any time of day, but the block is gated off and visitors are only admitted between noon and 10 p.m. Interspersed among the art are train cars repurposed as food trucks. Admission is free — but, like much of Coney Island, it's a seasonal attraction.
The walls will remain in place year-round, but the outdoor gallery will close to the public sometime in October.
"It stays open as long as the weather is good and people keep coming," Greenwald said.
Jeffrey Deitch, the artist and curator behind the wall selections, has been a part of promoting and curating street art since the 1970s — but he knew that he wanted to be involved in a project like this after he oversaw a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2011.
That was his first opportunity to curate a graffiti and street art exhibit at a major American museum, "which had never been done before," he said.
Looking to create a home for street art in New York City, Deitch approached Thor Equities about partnering for a not-for-profit public art exhibition. Thor owns the property, which is prime Coney Island real estate, right between the boardwalk and the subway.
For last year's art wall debut, Thor installed the walls and paid for the supplies while Deitch scrounged up the artists.
"Thor Equities went all the way and invested in the whole infrastructure to make this possible," Deitch said.
The artists selected are a veritable who's who of street art, including Tats Cru, Nina Chanel Abney, Buff Monster, How & Nosm, RETINA, eL Seed, Gaia, Crash, Daze, Marie Roberts and more.
"This is a field where a lot of people are following the lead of other artists. I'm looking for artists who have something innovative in their style," Deitch said when explaining his artist picks.
He specifically sought out a diverse group of artists; the creatives hail from the Middle East, France, Austria, Japan, Singapore and — of course — the Big Apple.
"It's many more women than in the usual street art show," he added. The show also features a unique aspect of community involvement — three of the walls are reserved for paintings by local children and young adults.
Painting started on May 9 and should be done in time for the Mermaid Parade on June 18 — although some of the projects were holdovers from last year. The 21 new pieces were painted over old works, in a longstanding street art tradition of renewal.
"I particularly love standing around there and seeing how little kids react," Deitch said.
"And I hope that out of the million kids who come to Coney Art Walls this summer, there will be a few who will be so inspired they will want to study art and consider being artists themselves."Send a Letter to the Editor
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