The Big Button

Today’s Zippy strip, with an undisregardable piece of public art in Manhattan’s fashion district:

(#1) The giant button and needle leaning on the kiosk of the Fashion District Information Center

Now: about this sculpture — the kiosk structure and the sculpture itself were removed last year — and then about its bright yellow stand-alone replacement, unveiled in February of this year.

The Black Button. From the Atlas Obscura site, “Giant Needle and Button, Manhattan, New York: There must be a pun in this haystack somewhere…”, published 2/28/12:

WALKING DOWN 7TH AVENUE IN Manhattan’s fashion district, you might be surprised to see a massive button and needle leaning against the Fashion District Information Center. While the sculpture was designed in the style of works by Claes Oldenburg, it was designed and built along with the information center by Pentagram Architectural Services.

(#2) The giant Button and Needle sculpture (Atlas Obscura photo)

Just next to the information booth, a statue of a garment worker toils in the shadow of the huge needle and button. This weathered-looking bronze statue is a work by Judith Weller. It depicts her father, one of a great many Jewish immigrants who moved to New York and wound up working in the garment district. Looming over the immigrant worker, the needle and button feel less whimsical and more menacingly oppressive.

(#3) Judith Weller’s bronze Garment Worker statue (Atlas Obscura photo)

The Yellow Button. From the Garment District Alliance (NYC) site, “The Big Button”:

Button Up! On Thursday, February 16, 2023,  Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Council Member Erik Bottcher joined  Garment District Alliance Vice Chair Steve Kaufman and President Barbara Blair to cut the ribbon on the GDA’s new Big Button sculpture on Seventh Avenue at 39th Street.  Other dignitaries in attendance included NYCDOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and  NYC Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin Kim, as well as representatives from Hines, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Local Projects, and UAP.

(#4) The big yellow Button, accompanied by Judith Weller’s Garment Worker

Before the festivities began, more than 150 invited guests enjoyed  hot chocolate, coffee and custom Big Button cookies, while Diverse Concert Artists entertained the mingling crowd.  Shortly after 11:00 am, invited speakers made brief remarks before grabbing their giant scissors and cutting the ribbon to officially introduce the new Big Button to the world.

Yellow is the New Black. In late 2022, the Alliance removed the kiosk structure and original black button sculpture that had stood at Seventh Avenue and 39th Street in order to make way for our new bright yellow Big Button that stands alone, supported by a mirror-polished steel thread. The new sculpture honors its predecessor and celebrates the Garment District’s rich history, while establishing an iconic piece of public art that represents the neighborhood’s dynamic future.

Why a new Big Button? In 1996, the Garment District Alliance renovated an existing kiosk structure and erected the first Big Button, designed by James Biber, then of Pentagram Architects.  The new Information Kiosk offered business-to-business services to thousands of people each year but, over time, as personal mobile devices became the go-to source for information, kiosk usage dwindled.

In 2017, GDA engaged Local Projects, the experiential design firm, to explore content and design concepts for the future of the kiosk. Through interviews and workshops with community stakeholders, they confirmed that, while a physical kiosk was no longer necessary, the Big Button is a beloved neighborhood icon that should remain and be enhanced as a pop art sculpture and placemaking amenity. Local Projects’ concept of the Big Button supported by a dynamic thread element was an immediate hit with stakeholders.

Thus, the idea for this new public art installation was born.


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