Fascinating Art Installations Hidden in Plain Sight


On an average day in any major city, bustling passersby walk past some of the best art that the area has to offer. There are no galleries or museum labels highlighting the works, but if you look closely enough there is much to appreciate that is hidden in plain sight. The following artists have created fascinating art installations on walls, in the ground, and barely out of view.

From Juxtapose about a series of hidden street art installations commenting on the living conditions in Romania: “In an attempt to bring attention to the people forced to live in extreme conditions, specifically the 600 people who live in the sewers and underground in Bucharest, artist Biancoshock turned abandoned manhole covers in Milan into miniature rooms.”

German artist Joseph Beuys created 7000 Oaks in 1982 as part of documenta 7, featuring 7,000 oak trees planted in Kassel, Germany with an accompanying basalt stone. Beuys wanted 7000 Oaks to travel the world to encourage a conversation about urban spaces and renewal. The Dia Art Foundation continues Beuys’ efforts in New York City, installed along West 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. In addition to oak trees, the organization has planted other species, including Gingko, Red Oak, and Elm Honey Locust.

The New York Times on musician Max Neuhaus’ public sound piece Times Square:

His most famous piece, or at least the one that has been heard by the most people, is “Times Square.” It was installed in 1977 beneath a traffic island in Manhattan where Broadway and Seventh Avenue converge, just south of 46th Street. Thousands of pedestrians a day traipse over a wide grate that appears to be nothing more than a steam escape hatch for the subway system below, but as they cross it, they are enveloped by a deeply resonant and mildly undulating drone, its tone suggestive of low-pitched chimes or church bells. (The piece was discontinued in 1992 but reinstated in 2002.)

French street artist Zevs created a spooky wallpaper installation for W Hotels. The walls in suite 112 look like your average room, until a UV light reveals hidden patterns and portraits that drip.

Look along the ground in Friedrichsplatz Park in Kassel, Germany for a gold circle about 2 inches in diameter. It could easily be mistaken for a coin that fell on the ground, but there’s a brass cylindrical rod that extends a kilometer into the ground. More from Atlas Obscura about the permanent sculpture by Walter De Maria called The Vertical Earth Kilometer:

Installed in 1977, the VEK is the work of famed American artist Walter De Maria, whose other work with metal rods includes the Lightning Field and the Broken Kilometer. But this is by far De Maria’s most subtle, and bizarre, work. The piece is almost entirely hidden from view, confining its existence to the trusting mind of the viewer. The boring of the shaft, which goes through six geological layers, took seventy-nine days. The continuous metal rod is made up of lengths measuring 167 meters each, that are screwed tightly together. The sandstone square which surrounds the top of the shaft is at the intersection of two paths which traverse the Friedrichsplatz in Kassel, Germany, site of the international contemporary art survey, Documenta.

These miniature skeletons in contemplative pose come from artist Isaac Cordal, installed along the streets of Mexico. From Cordal’s statement: “Isaac Cordal is sympathetic toward his little people and you can empathize with their situations, their leisure time, their waiting for buses and even their more tragic moments such as accidental death, suicide or family funerals. The sculptures can be found in gutters, on top of buildings, on top of bus shelters; in many unusual and unlikely places.”

Artist and choreographer Darren Johnston’s Sanctum used light and sound to transform a dark space hidden behind Norwich Market (called The Undercroft, beneath the Memorial Gardens in front of City Hall, St. Peter’s Street.). From the 2014 project website: “Enter a long tunnel of light which takes you deep into the Undercroft where audience members will be met with a meditative light installation made of haze, shards of light and immersive sound. The artist draws inspiration from sacred ceremonial spaces, eastern ideas of rebirth and abstract reinterpretations through digital technology.”

German street art duo Zebrating create invisible murals on railings and fences that can only be viewed in full from the side.

Street artist Dan Witz and Amnesty international collaborated on Wailing Walls, an interactive street art series, complete with QR codes, that features images of real-life prisoners from across the globe who have been detained for their political views. At a quick glance, passersby could easily miss the shadowy figures hidden behind bars and doors installed on brick walls and the sides of buildings.