Flatiron snowmen are not what they seem

The marble snowmen statues were designed by artist Peter Regli. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The marble snowmen statues were designed by artist Peter Regli. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza having become a hotspot for businesses looking to promote themselves through events and displays, a more recent use of the space at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue — as the home to a group of 12 snowmen — feels like a breath of fresh air, albeit a below freezing one with a blast of slush courtesy of passing cars.

But upon taking a closer look at the multi-sized Frostys, passersby have been discovering that they aren’t made of snow at all, but marble, and are part of a city-organized art installation. The snowmen are in fact “Snow Monsters,” designed by artist Peter Regli as part of his “Reality Hacking” series of exhibits.

The snowmen, even up close, look pretty close to the real thing, as they’re built to show various stages of melting and are different sizes. They also are all positioned to face south towards the Flatiron Building across the street. They were fabricated in Da Nang, Vietnam, by the Hánh family, who specialize in crafting traditional marble statues for Buddhist temples.

The installation was commissioned by the Department of Transportation, which is working alongside the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

First installed on January 25, the statues will remain on view through March 13. The only exception is during a relocation lasting a few days this week due to the concert that’s scheduled to take place on February 12 at the North Plaza. The statues will return to the Plaza on February 14.

Artist Peter Regli (Photo by Zenith Richards/courtesy of Dominique Lévy)

Artist Peter Regli (Photo by Zenith Richards/courtesy of Dominique Lévy)

Jennifer Brown, executive director of the Flatiron Partnership, noted that the arrival of the sculptures was perfectly timed with the first major snowstorm of the year. But unlike the weather, the snowmen have actually been putting smiles on the faces of people trudging through the snow, who then naturally stop for selfies by the display.

“Snow Monsters quickly claimed a place in the hearts of many plaza users and passers-by,” said Brown.

A spokesperson for the DOT said that the Dominique Lévy Gallery, which represents Regli and has three galleries, one in New York, one on London and one in Geneva, approached DOT last September about presenting the 12 snowmen sculptures at the Plaza. Currently, the department has no plans for future installations at the site. However, a rep for the Flatiron Partnership noted that art installations aren’t a new thing there; there was an architectural installation of lights on that same spot throughout December in celebration of the holidays.

In an official statement, Dominique Lévy stated that Regli’s snowmen were his answer to the inflatable plastic snowmen businesses often display on the street.

“Situated midway between the gaudy exemplars of everyday kitsch and the graceful majesty of public monuments, Regli’s sculptures catch us off guard in our regular rush from point A to point B,” the gallery said.

“Positioned ‘in the wrong place’ as Regli puts it, the sculptures aim to ‘interrupt the routine of the commuter and provide a humorous diversion within the wintry New York landscape.”

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