The Yard Man: Meet Madison Square Park’s Secret Weapon

How the father of the modern sculpture park helped transform the Flatiron greensward into a museum

  • On May 31, Madison Square Park will assemble 300 art world luminaries to toast a man who prides himself on having recently been called “boneheaded.” Two months ago, the park named a curatorial post, its first, in honor of this same man.

    “I will treasure forever being described as a bonehead,” said Martin Friedman, who is in his late 80s, and who served as director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for 26 years before retiring in 1989 and, eventually, becoming an advisor to the park. He was sitting in his art-filled apartment (Claes Oldenburg sketches and sculptures, Sol LeWitt wall drawings) on the 12th floor of a building in Greenwich Village last week, reminiscing about the incident that earned him his epithet. When the park displayed life-size sculptures of naked, standing men by Antony Gormley on rooftops two years ago, The New York Post fretted about their being mistaken for potential suicides in an article bearing the headline “Jump Dummy Jump,” that referred to the exhibition’s “boneheaded organizers.”
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