Art Everywhere US rendering

Art Everywhere US rendering, featuring Roy Lichtenstein’s Cold Shoulder (1963, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein).

Yesterday, a historic nation-wide public art initiative kicked off in New York City’s Times Square. “It’s a wonderful juxtaposition, and a beautiful moment, to see Fitz Henry Lane’s Boston Harbor Moment next to a 60-foot-tall model walking down the runway on the billboard next to it,” says Michael Govan, the director of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which teamed up with four of the country’s top museums—the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art—to put together the largest en pleine air art show ever.

Until August 31st, Art Everywhere US will display 58 beacons of American art on over 50,000 digital and material billboards across the country—on city streets, at town bus stops, across rural highways, on movie screens, bus shelters and taxi marquees. The museums offered up their collections’ standouts—from those by early pioneers, like John Singleton Copley and Thomas Eakins, all the way up to contemporary pieces by Cindy Sherman and Chuck Close—as finalists and, in an especially democratic touch, more than 180,000 people voted on which works would get their place in the sun. A few artists were so popular that voters picked multiple examples of their work; 19th century landscape painter Winslow Homer’s The Cotton Pickers, Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) and The Water Fan will both be displayed, as will Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Early Sunday Morning.

“Most Americans aren't taught about American art in school, and this project is intended to put discussion about art back in the classroom—and at the dinner table, water cooler, and car pool,” says Dallas Museum of Art Director Max Anderson. Not to mention at Starbucks and on the subway.