In Times Square, Hot Dog in the City by Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw elicits postmodern sublime


In Times Square, Hot Dog in the City by Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw elicits postmodern sublime

The installation debuted in Times Square on April 13. (Michael Hull)

There are footlongs, and then there are 65-footlongs by Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw of Brooklyn. The married artist couple recently debuted Hot Dog in the City in Times Square, the latest architectural installation supported by the Times Square Arts Alliance.

The new 65-foot-tall installation by Catron and Outlaw features a colossal bun with a red-tinged frankfurter seasoned with mustard. At high-noon everyday (until June 13) the hot dog rises upward to a near 45 degree angle, made possible by hydraulic mechanisms.

Confetti shoots from the tip of the hot dog like a canon, cascading upon onlookers down below. The artists note that this chauvinist display plays into the hyper-masculine aesthetics so common in the U.S. from hometown parades to gender reveal parties.

hot dog sculpture standing upright
At noon, the installation stands upright and sprays confetti onto onlookers. (Michael Hull)

The new sculpture by Catron and Outlaw is very site specific: It’s a tribute to New York City’s hot dog vendors, the artists said. It’s both a celebration of the food item as well as a Marxist critique of the labor conditions so many vendors face, and of the meat packing industry more broadly—where Claes Oldenburg meets Upton Sinclair.

Thus, Hot Dog in the City is a collaboration with the Times Square Arts Alliance as well as the Street Vendor Project, a membership-based organization that advances the rights and wages of street vendors in New York.

Past beneficiaries of Times Square Arts Alliance include Soft-Firm, which unveiled Love Letter in 2021; Pamela Council’s A Fountain for Survivors; and Almost Studio’s Love’s h|Edge, completed in 2023. The new hot dog sculpture by Catron and Outlaw opened the same month that a giant Heinz ketchup bottle debuted in Pittsburgh, a love letter in its own right for Andy Warhol.

mustard dripping off Hot Dog in the City
A detail shot shows the mustard dripping off (Michael Hull)

What apple pie is to America, the hot dog is to New York City, the quirky artists contend. The food item brought over to the U.S. by central European immigrants in the 1800s is as synonymous with New York as the yellow taxi cabs and Yankees hats that dot its streets. The hotdog, the artists continued, is meant to encourage viewers to examine class, consumption, capitalism, and the myths of the American Dream.

“Like us, the hot dog is an absurd mass of mashed-up fragments masquerading as one remarkable product, a Trojan Horse of individual narratives and sordid histories. When you boil it down, there’s no symbol that better relishes the American conglomerate than our audacious, record-breaking hot dog…unless that hot dog is also in Times Square,” the artists shared in a statement.

(Michael Hull)

Times Square is a place that New Yorkers love to hate, an elitist attitude that Catron and Outlaw poke fun at. Hot Dog in the City however isn’t the first time that artists have proposed larger than life food items for New York’s living room. In 1984, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Fred Schwartz had an idea to construct a giant apple there atop a Grecian podium, an obviously unbuilt project entitled THE BIG APPLE.


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Schwartz originally envisioned THE BIG APPLE one night at the Ear Inn, a downtown bar. It was a response to new skyscrapers on Times Square by Philip Johnson and John Burgee which were met with vitriol by the press.

Unlike the towers by Johnson and Burgee, however, THE BIG APPLE had positive reviews. In The New York Times, Paul Goldberger said “the genius of [THE BIG APPLE] lies in its ability to manipulate proportion and the element of surprise in such a way as to make us think of the apple as a monumental object, not as a common piece of fruit.” Forty years later, Catron and Outlaw carry this torch of postmodernity.

Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw (Katharine Ryals)

Hot Dog in the City, now on view in Times Square through June 13, builds upon the artists’ corpus. Past works by Catron and Outlaw include giant ice cream sundaes and hams on view at the Brooklyn Museum and Cranbrook Art Museum.

The new piece will be activated with lectures and round tables ranging from the high brow to low. Some discussions will revisit Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and discuss the current state of the meatpacking industry, while others will convene debaters to argue over which is a better condiment: Ketchup or Mustard.

Those looking for a nibble of hot dog should head over to Herman Miller’s NYC store on May 21 to 23, the storefront will transform into a Picnic on Park for NYCxDesign. Keep your eyes out for the bespoke pop-up cart that will serve the barbecue favorite.