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7 Shockingly Beautiful Art Installations That Will Stop You In Your Tracks

What happens when you suspend a giant disco ball above a city walkway during the night? People look up from their phones and pay attention to the world around them. The book Unexpected Art shows a collection of international street art meant to interrupt our daily lives in the best way possible.

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Photo by Thibault Jeanson. Commissioned by Park Avenue Armory. Courtesy of Ann Hamilton

Rubber Duck

The friendly, floating Rubber Duck travels the world and has popped up in such cities as Auckland, São Paulo, and Osaka. Its positive artistic statement immediately connects people to their childhood, says its creator, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, known for whimsical urban installations.

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© Michel De Broin

La Maîtresse de la Tour Eiffel

The spectacular view of the starry night sky has long been a source of delight and curiosity, but the abundance of artificial light in urban areas produces a distracting glow. To create a truly starry night for Parisian residents, Canadian sculptor Michel de Broin suspended the largest mirrored ball ever made from a construction crane 50 meters above the ground in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was up for one night during the Paris “Nuit Blanche” event.

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Courtesy of FriendsWIthYou

700 Delaware

The use of the bright colors used to repaint this Washington, D.C. church might at first seem irreverent, but they were key to transforming the church, according to its creator HENS, a contemporary public artist and painter based in Atlanta, Georgia. This project was the first step to bring life and color into an urban area in transition, one with huge potential to be a locus for artists and art.

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Janus van den Eijnden

1.26 Amsterdam

Installed over the Amstel River, 1.26 Amsterdam is made entirely of soft materials, which allows it to attach to existing architecture without extra reinforcement. Unique lighting helps reflect colors on the water below so the sculpture becomes an ethereal form that transforms day to night; in darkness it appears to float in thin air. The sculpture’s three-dimensional form is inspired by the mapping of tsunami wave heights across and entire ocean, according to American sculpture artist Janet Echelman.

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Courtesy of Lynne Harlow and Minus Space NY


In a world in which face-to-face communication is becoming less and less common, Minneapolis artist HOTTEA wanted to create a platform for verbal communication among people in New York City’s fast-paced environment. While HOTTEA was in Brooklyn, he noticed that the thousands of people who travel across the Williamsburg Bridge’s pedestrian walking path each day tended to stick to themselves. He wanted this piece to slow people down, to create a dialogue, and to spark imagination.

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© Álvaro Sánchez-Montañés

Indoor Desert

By the end of World War I, diamond mines in Kolmanskuppe, a site in the Namib Desert, ceased to be exploited. For more than two decades prior, Kolmanskuppe had been one of the wealthiest settlements in Southern Africa. During that time of splendor, the German colonists who ran the site had built peculiar residences there, evoking the architecture and decor of those in their homeland, Bavaria.

After the mines shut down and its inhabitants left, Kolmanskuppe became a ghost town engulfed by desert sands. With his series Indoor Desert, photographer Álvaro Sánchez-Montañés enters these houses abandoned to the desert to unveil the serene enchantment that dwells in their chambers. You can see more photographs of his installation here.

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Photo by Megan Cullen. Courtesy Melbourne Water

Amstelveen, Netherlands Installation

The installation in Amstelveen, Netherlands, is made from crystal, chrome-plated metal, precious stones, mirrors, and optical glass. From a distance, the design appears clear and orderly, yet upon closer inspection, the eyes become disoriented by the many details and visual stimuli, according to Dutch artist Suzan Drummen. Observers’ visual perception is challenged, requisitioned, and intensified.

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Unexpected Art

To see more groundbreaking artwork from around the world, pick up Unexpected Art here.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest