A herd of paper sheep created by artist Kyu Seok Oh stands among the sights and sounds of Times Square, drawing stares and chuckles from passersby. The West Harlem Art Fund worked with Oh to bring his installation to the must-see tourist destination.
Savona Bailey-McClain, president of WHAF, met Oh in Harlem three years ago.
“Oh is a good artist,” she said. “He used to work with clay … but he went back to something traditional, which is paper.”
Oh made the 24 life-size sheep in his Brooklyn studio. The sheep are now in a small fenced-off area in Times Square, between 45th and 46th streets. The installation is part of the Times Square Show 2011, a contemporary art display by the Times Square Alliance.
Bailey-McClain said she does not like to limit her organization to Harlem, which is why this Times Square installation seemed like a good opportunity for her.
“The West Harlem Art Fund has never in its history limited itself to being a Harlem-based organization or an Afro-based organization,” she said. “We’ve always felt that it’s more important to focus on good art.”
Both the WHAF and the artist said they are happy with the outcome of their year-long project.
“We’re a small, poor organization and we are hoping that this will bring more attention,” Bailey-McClain said. “The mayor gave us a shout out yesterday.”
The metal structure and recycled-paper, pulp covering are able to withstand the elements of Times Square, including weather and thousands of people.
“The response has been phenomenal. People are out there every day,” Bailey-McClain said. “People are taking pictures, blogging, everything.”
“We wanted to see why it was here,” Julie Werner, a tourist from out of state, said while snapping a photo. She said she couldn’t walk by without stopping to read the description written on a stand next to the installation.
Some tourists were drawn to the sheep for their artistic value.
“My daughter studies art, and I was just discussing with her,” Rudolph Messinger said. “From the distance, I thought they were real sheep.”
“I think it’s nice to have these still figures in the middle of Times Square,” his daughter, Nadja, said. She said she enjoys creating these kinds of installations herself, and she spent some time viewing the sheep.
Others take the sheep more lightheartedly, as a welcome respite from the daily grind of the city.
“For me, it’s just fun and art,” Jan Woffer of Arizona commented about the significance of the sheep. She read about the installation in the New York Times and decided to go see it for herself before returning home.
It’s not just tourists, however, who are captivated by the display.
“There’s always something in Times Square,” native New Yorker Richard Rivera said. “Art is how they [artists] express themselves. And it’s nice. It’s something different.”