Long Island City rental apartment residents have seen the Clocktower building a million times, one of those geographic landmarks you use almost without thinking when you’re in the Court Square part of the neighborhood. And though the once-mighty Bank Of America headquarters–built in 1927 (the tallest building in Queens!), abandoned in 1980s, overshadowed by the green-glass Citibank behemoth in the 1990s–has fallen upon shabby times, the ground floor still houses a soaring, sunny lobby and, even cooler, located one flight down, several massive old steel bank vaults.
Enter the excellent public art advocates at No Longer Empty, who love to fill these interesting, neglected spaces throughout New York City with art installations. Called “How Much Do I Owe You?”, No Longer Empty’s latest exhibition takes over the Clocktower’s entrance area and vaults with money- and debt-themed works from an international contingent of 26 different artists.
The Long Island City Clocktower installation is No Longer Empty’s 14th such public art exhibition, and I’ve enjoyed every show of theirs that I’ve seen: the “Watch This Space” street art-ish one in DUMBO, for example; and the “Out of Nothing” show in Cobble Hill’s Invisible Dog gallery, housed in a one-time belt factory on Bergen Street; and, most recently, “This Side of Paradise” at the Andrew Freeman mansion in the Bronx, once a “retirement home” for wealthy people who lost their money in the Great Depression. “How Much Do I Owe You?”, however, is probably their most consistently engaging effort to date, both because of the unusual space and the tight focus of the subject matter. Of course, it helps that the artists who have contributed to How Much Do I Owe You are clearly up to the commission.
I liked almost everything in the “How Much Do I Owe You?”, and had a great time exploring the space and chatting with the staff, but just to highlight a few of my favorites… Both pieces by Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom, who go by the name Ghost of a Dream, were pretty terrific, especially In Banks We Trust (above), for which the pair covered the walls with hand-written marketing slogans from financial institutions.
The artist Guerra de La Paz has a clever crowd-pleaser, Sealing the Deal (top), where businessmen are reduced to their decidedly un-trustworthy power ties. Alberto Borea’s Nothing (two above) feels appropriate in one of the downstairs vaults; the create-your-own Fundred project is, indeed, a lot of fun; the impossible ping pong table by Theodoros Stamatogiannis (below) offers an interesting expression of the frustration many feel about how the game of life is rigged from the start; and Erika Harrsch’s Currency Kites (two below) make good use of the huge space.
No Longer Empty’s “How Much Do I Owe You?” will be open through March 13, every Thursday through Monday from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and is well worth a visit for Long Island City rental apartment residents, as well as any New Yorker willing to jump on the G, 7, N, R, E, M, or Q trains, all of which let you off within easy walking distance of the Clocktower. Plus: it’s free! AND you can combine your trip with a visit to the legendary, soon-to-be-demolished (maybe) 5Pointz “living museum” of graffiti and street art. Lots more information about No Longer Empty and “How Much Do I Owe You?’, including a calendar of special events, can be found on their website.