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Looking at Art

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The Take

Before coronavirus concerns closed down many cultural institutions, four photographers explored how people in New York look at, interact with and sometimes ignore art in the city.

Heather Sten

Heather Sten’s backdrop? The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the action was actually on the ceiling. “When I walked in, I did exactly what he did,” she said of the gentleman pictured here, “and I watched everyone after him do the same thing — look up, stare open-mouthed at this incredibly intricate work, take a cellphone photo and move on.”

Amateur photo shoots have given public art a second life, on Instagram and in picture frames. Camilo Fuentealba observed a family “all dressed up, dancing and singing,” who started using the Subliminal Standard wall in Brooklyn — Harold Ancart’s painted sculpture inspired by handball courts — as a backdrop for quinceanera photos. “They mainly ignored me,” he said. Fuentealba also found subjects downtown in the financial district, uptown in Harlem and a few spots in between.

David La Spina often photographs his daughter, Sidonia, taking in the world. Here, he caught her reacting to Philippe Parreno’s “Echo” at the Museum of Modern Art. “The most fascinating thing to me is their aesthetic awareness,” he said. (She insisted on checking out “Starry Night,” too.) “Kids know good art when they see it.” He also took Sidonia and a few of her friends to the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Dia:Beacon.


Meghan Marin

Meghan Marin had a specific goal for this assignment: She sought out young people “with great style” and works that were “less on the beaten path.” She found both at a Brooklyn show with a mission — a silent auction to benefit Australian bushfire relief — featuring Liberty Leben’s soap sculptures. She also stopped at a magazine shop on the Lower East Side and the International Center of Photography in midtown.


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