Not that you’d know it, but at 141 Wooster Street (that’s right next to the North Face store and a block down from Fred Perry for all you outerwear enthusiasts) lives a totally bizarre and equally awesome installation by conceptual artist, composer, and ex-Velvet Underground-er Walter De Maria.
“The New York Earth Room” (pictured), a permanent installation maintained by the Dia Art Foundation, is an indoor land sculpture that’s occupied the space since 1977. A knee-high panel of glass is all that separates you from 22 inches of damp, neatly raked soil covering 3,600 square feet of prime Soho real estate. Yes, a portion of the most expensive and sought after commercial square footage in the world is occupied by dirt, and has been for 30 years.
Even if the implied “fuck you” to consumer culture won’t get you there, consider this: the attendant is on the other side of a wall, and rumor has it that some viewers jump the glass and walk on top of it (I wasn’t so brave). And if even the promise of art-related mischief isn’t enough, the room’s earthy fragrance and complete silence provides a quick escape from the city. Call me crunchy, but I miss the way dirt smells after it rains.
“The New York Earth Room” is located at 141 Wooster St (between Houston and Prince Sts) and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12 to 6pm, closed for lunch 3-3:30pm.