Manhattan inaugurated the hotly anticipated second stretch of the High Line on Tuesday with something entirely befitting one of the most mind-blowing parks of the century: "inflatable sculptures" that look like Willa Wonka's garden on acid.
Sponsored by our pals AOL and designed by FriendsWithYou, an art collective in Miami, the sculptures are a squadron of more than three dozen rainbow-colored blowup creatures — including a mushroom and some sort of smoking, armless man — that bob around a vacant lot under a verdant new expanse of the High Line at 30th Street and 10th Avenue. (We've got lots more on HL Part II coming up.) Rainbow City, as they call it, is being billed as a "large- scale interactive installation" — "interactive" because you can poke the sculptures to your heart's content and "installation" because, well, "giant psychedelic balloons" probably wouldn't have impressed the guy signing checks over at AOL.
When we visited the installation on Tuesday, tipsy partygoers busied themselves weaving in and out of the balloons, punching them, squeezing them, and, apparently, playing catch with them, much to a security guard's chagrin. Some folks even ventured into a vaguely sinister-looking inflatable moonwalk. (We were not so brave.) If the original High Line was a pretty perch for big-city voyeurism — and certainly it was — then Rainbow City seems to suggest that the sequel is all about participating in the madness. Or drugs.