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New York's Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit Returns This Memorial Day Weekend

Picture of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 24 May 2017
Inaugurated by legendary abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock in the spring of 1931, the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit returns to New York City this Memorial Day weekend for its 87th year.

Struggling to make rent during the trying years of the Great Depression, Jackson Pollock figured he had nothing to lose—so one spring day, he gathered a few paintings from his humble Greenwich Village studio and displayed them on the sidewalk by Washington Square Park.

HDR – Washington Square Park Arch
HDR – Washington Square Park Arch | © m01229/Flickr

Little did he know, Pollock’s small-scale exhibition would position his work in front of the right people, including Whitney Museum of American Art founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and then-Director of the Museum of Modern Art, Alfred H. Barr, Jr. From then on, his career was poised for unimaginable success.

Carmen Porfido, Fiber
Carmen Porfido, Fiber | © Bonnie Shanas, Sculpture | © Rebecca MB. Pearson

Alongside his friend and fellow contemporary artist, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock inadvertently inaugurated the biannual Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. Following an unexpected level of interest in Pollock’s showcase, the event gained traction, engaging artists and art lovers from all over the city and the world.

Steven Klein, Fine Art – Acrylic
Steven Klein, Fine Art – Acrylic | © Rebecca MB. Pearson

Aside from serving as a platform for exhibiting artists to showcase their wares, the exhibition has explored important themes in art, to include “the abolishing of an early ban on nudes; the opening of the show to photography as an art form; and the recognition of crafts, provided each piece is one-of-a-kind and hand-made,” according to the event’s website.

Yoshimi Tanaka, jewelry and pottery
Yoshimi Tanaka, jewelry and pottery | © Rebecca MB. Pearson

Artists serve as judges, and dole out cash prizes for the best works of fine art, graphic art, mixed media works, paintings, photographs, sculptures and ceramics, crafts, jewelry, glass, and more.

Bonnie Shanas, Sculpture
Bonnie Shanas, Sculpture | © Rebecca MB. Pearson

The spring 2017 edition of the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit will be held along University Place between Waverly and 12th Street from May 27 through May 29, and June 3 and 4 from 12pm until 6pm.