Public Works of Art by French Artists in the U.S.

To celebrate the return of sunny days and the joy of getting out and about, discover our selection of public works of art produced by French artists and installed in the United States.
Niki de Saint Phalle’s Serpent Tree, Waterfront Park, San Diego. © Chris Jennewein

Downtown Pittsburgh’s Agnes R. Katz Plaza (dedicated 1999) is home to one of Louise Bourgeois’s largest public art commissions – a bronze fountain rising 25 feet – as well as three pairs of granite Eye Benches, sly nods to the pleasures of people-watching.

Louise Bourgeois, fountain and Eye Benches. © 2020 The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society, NY

Standing about 30 feet high and incorporating some 70 shades of glass and mirror, fossils, and rocks from all over the world, Coming Together (2001) is Niki de Saint Phalle’s take on yin and yang, its title a call for unity. Located near the San Diego Convention Center, this sculpture is one of five public works by the artist to grace the city, a testament to her strong connection to the area (she spent her final years in nearby La Jolla). Waterfront Park is home to three, and the last is on the UC San Diego campus.

Niki de Saint Phalle, Coming Together.

Gaston Lachaise’s monumental bronze Floating Figure celebrates not just the woman on whom it was modeled – his wife and perpetual muse, Isabel – but Woman in the archetypal sense. One of a handful of casts from the 1927 original is on view in Hunter’s Point South Park in Queens, New York until late September. (Another can be see on the Princeton campus in New Jersey.)

Gaston Lachaise, Floating Figure.

Several U.S. cities boast massive public sculptures by Art Brut founder Jean Dubuffet in his signature coloring-book style. In fiberglass and big enough to walk not just around but into, Monument with Standing Beast (1984), in front of Chicago’s Thompson Center; Group of Four Trees (1972), in New York’s Chase Manhattan Plaza; and Monument au Fantôme (1983), in Houston’s Discovery Green, all stand between 30 and 40 feet tall, while the stainless-steel La Chiffonière (Rag Woman, 1978), in San Francisco’s Embarcadero Plaza, has a smaller footprint but is still imposing at a height of 22 feet.

Jean Dubuffet, Monument with Standing Beast.

In 2018, the London-based artist and designer Camille Walala transformed the façade of a seven-story building in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn with her trompe-l’oeil Pop City Mural, whose vibrant palette was inspired by the colors that bathe the urban landscape at sunset.

Camille Walala, Pop City Mural.

The 33-foot-tall Indeterminate Line (2004), in Corten steel, reflects Bernar Venet’s enduring fascination with the theme of the line – in this case, one that is not, as in much of his work, mathematically determined. The artist’s first piece on an architectural scale, it stands outside the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. A smaller piece, 222.5° Arc x 5 (2007), can be found in the city’s Commons Park. As indicated by its title, it is very much a product of precise calculations.

Bernar Venet, Indeterminate Line.

A site-specific installation by acclaimed conceptual artist Sophie Calle, Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery invites visitors to unburden themselves on paper and lay their confidences to rest in a tomb of her design. Inaugurated near the main entrance to Brooklyn’s vast, historic memorial park in 2017, it will remain in place until 2042.

Sophie Calle, Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery. © Leandro Justen/Courtesy of Creative Time

Blending art and architecture with large-scale, site-specific structures that are super high tech but have an organic feel about them, Marc Fornes’s New York-based studio THEVERYMANY has completed public art projects in a number of U.S. cities, including Tampa, Charlotte, El Paso, and San Antonio.

Marc Fornes, The Form of Wander. © NAARO, Tampa

Article published in the April 2021 issue of France-AmériqueSubscribe to the magazine.