Lily Kwong Keeps Summer Alive in a New York Winter

Callan Malone

Lily Kwong’s Summer in Winter for Cadillac House and Visionaire.

New York’s first snow brought gridlock traffic and kids on makeshift sleds in Prospect Park. It also marked, in a beautiful coincidence, the opening of Lily Kwong’s Summer in Winter. Cultured’s landscape editor has created yet another breathtaking site-specific installation: this time at the Cadillac House in the form of a 1,000-square-foot botanical oasis with species spanning 37 countries and 7 continents. Viewers walk among, on top of, and below greens in every shade and shape.

Amidst the city’s snow, sludge, and concrete, Summer In Winter is home to blooming tropical palms, ancient cycads, and South African succulents. Here lies vibrant growth among a gray winter city’s walls. The exhibit offers its guests an opportunity to reconnect with nature in its purest form and to explore the complexities of climate change as you walk among centuries old species. Kwong explains, “I feel such a responsibility because people are so disconnected from nature in New York.”

Among Kwong’s previous projects are takeovers of Grand Central and the Highline, but Summer in Winter is the first for which Kwong has used grow lights to keep the plants fed and nurtured. It’s an experimental process as the exhibit has been open nearly a month now and continues into late January. “The plants may die. And when I say that, I don’t mean it cavalierly. I would be absolutely devastated. Plants communicate and talk to each other. I found the best grow light specialist I could to manage the project. I always work with botanists and horticulturists to make sure that my planting pad is sound, to make sure that I’m choosing the right place for the plants. I can take all these steps to ensure the best, but it will really be an experience in patience. There’s no way in knowing what will thrive, what won’t.”

In all of her installations, Lily has an “exit strategy.” Her Grand Central piece was deconstructed and given to an organization that filled hospital rooms with plant life. Her Highline piece was taken apart and donated to the UN. This time around, Kwong has decided to have a community deinstallation. As the show comes to a close, people will have the opportunity to deconstruct Summer in Winter and take some of its magic home with them. The show is on now until January 16th at the Cadillac House, 330 Hudson St, New York, NY.