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Indoor spaces offering public programs & galleries on Governors Island require proof of COVID-19 vaccination in accordance with the Key to NYC Executive Order. Click here to review all health & safety protocols prior to your visit.

Indoor spaces offering public programs & galleries on Governors Island require proof of COVID-19 vaccination in accordance with the Key to NYC Executive Order. Click here to review all health & safety protocols prior to your visit.

Open at all times
See the schedule for island hours.
Manhattan - Manhattan - Battery Maritime Building (BMB) Lobby

Although no one knows whose hand con­struct­ed the world’s first ship in a bot­tle, the del­i­cate minia­tures cap­tur­ing frozen nau­ti­cal scenes became pop­u­lar in the 18th and ear­ly 19th cen­turies. In his large work for the Gov­er­nors Island Fer­ry Build­ing, Duke Riley expands on the tra­di­tion of these pre­cious­ly craft­ed objects by using a more com­mon bot­tle of today — sin­gle use plas­tic con­tain­ers found float­ing in oceans world­wide. Unlike their blown glass and wood coun­ter­parts, Riley’s paint­ed vignettes appear etched like scrimshaw on the sur­faces of items that plague our water­way ecosys­tems such as deter­gent bot­tles and caulk­ing tubes.These tow­er­ing scenes act as snap­shots of time and tale, form­ing a bridge from past to present, fact and fan­ta­sy. Riley’s rich­ly pig­ment­ed mur­al pro­vides vis­i­tors an intro­duc­tion to their jour­ney across New York Har­bor to Gov­er­nors Island, reflect­ing on how sto­ry­telling, mem­o­ry, and human con­sump­tion all make imprints into our ever-evolv­ing under­stand­ing of place, his­to­ry, and the phys­i­cal land­scapes that we inhabit.

Duke Riley anchors his work, Not for Nut­ten,in loca­tion with nau­ti­cal flags spelling out Pag­ganuck (“Nut Island”), the name giv­en to this place by its first occu­pants, the Lenni-Lenape, after the Island’s many hick­o­ry, oak, and chest­nut trees. In 1624, Dutch set­tlers trans­lat­ed the Island’s name to Noten Eylandt, which the British lat­er referred to as Nut­ten Island, a mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the Dutch name. Riley’s play of the term not for noth­ing”, a phrase whose ori­gin is spec­u­lat­ed to be unique­ly from New York City, frames the read­ing of the mur­al and its envi­ron­men­tal warn­ing — empha­siz­ing impor­tant news about to be delivered.

On the vast back wall, scenes range from Island’s British occu­pa­tion to today. A soda bot­tle ref­er­ences an ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry like­ness of Island res­i­dent­Lord Corn­bury, gov­er­nor of New York and New Jer­sey from 1701 – 1708, depict­ed in the attire which he was rumored to adorn in both pri­vate and pub­lic. To the far right, an oil bot­tle con­tains the image of a mer­crea­ture oper­at­ing the world’s first sub­ma­rine, The Tur­tle, used by Washington’s army to secure explo­sives to British war ships in New York Har­bor in 1776. A deodor­ant tube holds the gloves of icon­ic world heavy­weight box­ing cham­pi­on Joe Louis, who appeared for his­Army phys­i­cal at Fort Jay in 1942. Over­lap­ping time nar­ra­tives lead us to more recent images of the Island’s for­mer Coast Guard light­house in a dish­wash­ing bot­tle, a nar­whal caught in a covid-era rub­ber glove, and con­tem­po­rary con­tain­er ship bring­ing goods past the Island in and out of Red Hook, most cer­tain­ly car­ry­ing new sin­gle use items to be dis­card­ed in our har­bor — Easy Come, Easy Go.”

Duke Riley is a Brook­lyn-based artist and sea­far­er, whose work is inter­twined with mar­itime his­to­ry and urban water­ways. His instal­la­tions, paint­ings, draw­ings, sculp­tures, and mosaics weave his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary events with ele­ments of fic­tion and myth. In 2007, Riley built, launched, and pilot­ed a full-scale repli­ca of the Tur­tle, reen­act­ing its 1776 mis­sion near the shores of Gov­er­nors Island in the But­ter­milk Chan­nel for his project The Bat­tle of Brook­lyn. Born in Boston, Riley received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and his M.F.A. from Pratt Insti­tute. Riley’s work has been wide­ly exhib­it­ed in shows and pub­lic projects in New York, nation­al­ly, and internationally.

Not for Nut­ten was Com­mis­sioned by the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island and was made pos­si­ble through the gen­er­ous sup­port of Cha­ri­na Endow­ment Fund and The O’Grady Foundation.

Open at all times
See the schedule for island hours.
Manhattan - Manhattan - Battery Maritime Building (BMB) Lobby