Living Art Museum: Our Favorite Pieces of Public Art

One of the greatest aspects of the city of Philadelphia is the multitude of art installations – you could easily spend days in the Barnes Foundation or get lost in The Philadelphia Museum of Art. However, Philly art is not confided to just the insides of buildings and it is scattered throughout the city in the form of sculptures, murals, and more. The huge presence of public art truly turns the city into a living art museum. Here is a curated list of our personal favorites…


  1. “Lotus Diamond”

Shepard Fairey is perhaps the most well-known contemporary street artist. If you are not familiar with his brand OBEY, surely you remember Obama’s 2008 “Hope” poster. Fairey has left a number of marks on Philadelphia, but “Lotus Diamond” was his first large-scale project. The mural is a mandala pattern in Fairey’s signature colors – red, white and black. You can find this mesmerizing piece in the heart of Fishtown, right at 1228 Frankford Ave.


  1. “Clothespin”


Swedish-born American sculptor Claes Oldenburg turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. Oldenburg’s work began in Philadelphia in 1959 as part of the One Percent for Fine Arts program. This initiative requires that every project built on land obtained from the Redevelopment Authority utilize at least one percent of its budget toward commissioning public art. Oldenburg created four sculptures for Philadelphia: “Split Button”, “The Plug”, “The Paint Torch”, and “Clothespin”. Located in the heart of the city, 15th and Market, the 45-foot “Clothespin” has become the most iconic of the bunch.  Although we recommend checking out all of Oldenburg’s work, definitely start with this classic.


  1. “Your Move”

This installation is sure to take you back to your childhood with larger than life checker pieces, chess pieces, bingo chips, and more. Like “Clothespin”, “Your Move” is also a part of the One Percent for Fine Arts program. The piece is a collaboration between artists Daniel Martinez, Renee Petropoulis, and Rodger White. If you are looking for a little nostalgia, walk on over to the Municipal Services Building Plaza to find “Your Move”.


  1. Big Bling”


Philadelphia welcomed this 40-foot sculpture from acclaimed artist Martin Puryear in May 2017. The abstract form has gained a lot of attention on social media, with people from Philadelphia and surrounding areas constantly tweeting and instagramming their thoughts on what the piece resembles. Head down to Kelly Drive between Fountain Green Drive and Girard Avenue Bridges to cast your vote.  Make sure you get there soon because this is a temporary piece! The sculpture was brought to Philadelphia by the Association for Public Art (APA) working in tandem with New York’s Madison Square Park Conservancy and will only be here until November 2017.


  1. “A Love Letter”

Everyone in the city has seen at least one of Steve Powers’ murals, but what you probably didn’t realize is that each of his murals are part of a larger story. Stretching from 5th Street to 63rd Street along the Market Street corridor are 50 rooftop murals that tell the tale of a classic love story from a guy to a girl. Powers, who is a West Philadelphia native and Fulbright Scholar, describes the piece as “a letter for one, with meaning for all”. The murals are best viewed from the Market/Frankford El -we challenge you to spot all 50!


As you make your way around the city, it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. We hope that you will take time to slow down and enjoy all of the amazing art around you! Let us know which pieces you liked best.

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