The 100 Greatest New York City Artworks, Ranked

When the artist Florine Stettheimer returned from a sojourn in Europe during the 1910s, she vowed to paint New York City as she saw it. She wrote a poem in which she spoke of a place where “skytowers had begun to grow / And front stoop houses started to go / And life became quite different / And it was as tho’ someone had planted seeds / And people sprouted like common weeds / And seemed unaware of accepted things.” She continued on, concluding ultimately that “what I should like is to paint this thing.”

She did so, producing works such as New York/Liberty (1918–19), in which downtown Manhattan’s busy port is shown with a chunky Statue of Liberty welcoming a ship. It’s a bombastic vision of all that New York has to offer, and it’s one of the works that make this list, which collects 100 of the best pieces about the city.

The works ranked below take many forms—painting, sculpture, photography, film, performance, even artist-run organizations whose activities barely resemble art. They pay homage to aspects of New York life across all five of its boroughs. Secret histories are made visible, the stuff of everyday life is repurposed as art, and tragic events from New York lore are memorialized. Binding all of these works is one larger question: What really makes a city?

These 100 works come up with many different answers to that query, not the least because a significant number of them are made by people who were born outside New York City.

Below, the 100 greatest works about New York City.