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Defining Moment

House & Garden July 2003

Defining Moment

In honor of Central Park's 150 years, some of New York City's biggest names have redesigned its benches.

On a fine day in Central Park, a bench is a valuable commodity; this fall, a few were more coveted than usual. for Target Benchmarks Central Park, part of the park's 150th birthday celebration, art and design luminaries and celebrities reimagined 53 of the standard issue four-footers. Some of the benches went on view in the park and in Chelsea Galleries before being auctioned at Christie's in November to benefit the Central Park Conservancy.

Some redesigns were subtle: David Rockwell made his bench a glowing garden seat by adding lit Plexiglas panels between the slats. Joel Shapiro played loosely with the form, deconstructing the bench in a teetering abstract sculpture. Pop surrealist Kenny Scharf staged the Universals, his space-age family of mannequins, on a day at the park as pictured. For Scharf, who now lives in Los Angeles, the program was a great way to help a place to which he feels indebted. 'All of the summers I didn't have money to leave the city, I went to Central Park, and it kept me sane,' he says. 'It's a vital part of life in New York.'

By Jesse Will for House & Garden 2003

Photographed by Amy Eckert