Open House by sculptor and installation artist Liz Glynn at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza, is a reference to the now-demolished William C. Whitney Ballroom, designed by Stanford White, that once stood at 871 5th Avenue (a few blocks north). The original furniture was Louis XIV, upholstered in ornate patterns with gilded frames. ... Moving through the space, you feel as though you’re part of a performance. The furniture has become backdrop to the chaotic ballet of locals speedily weaving through to get between Central Park and 5th Avenue, and the languorous tourists strolling then pausing, sitting, deciding which path to take next. Standing in the installation, you feel enveloped by the city: a concrete mixer is stopped in front of the plaza, a food cart is parked at the southeast corner of the park, another selling waffles is at the west corner, people selling bike tours of Central Park meander about, and a small truck nearby sells NYC T-shirts.
The furniture, which is almost comically formal, changes the way you present yourself to the world. The armchairs prove to be an attractive backdrop for the obligatory selfie. A little girl shrieks “Sofaaaa!” in delight as she spots the most coveted piece of furniture in the installation. The sofa feels more intimate than a park bench, its gently curved sides inviting conversation, as I witnessed a few groups of friends doing on a Saturday afternoon. At one point a street performer dressed entirely in silver glitter, with platform heels and a mask, co-opts the sofa for him (or her)self. The motionless performer appears to be taking a break (they could be asleep, for all I know) but occasionally motions to a fascinated child and, after the photo-op, watches the parent drop money into an open purse.