The Vessel was supposed to be New York City's most exciting new art installation — but it closed after 2 years. Photos show what it's like to visit now.

  • The Vessel, a massive interactive sculpture that cost an estimated $200 million, opened in 2019.

  • The honeycomb-esque structure is the centerpiece of Hudson Yards but closed to the public in 2021.

  • While visitors can't climb on it like they used to, they can still admire it from the outside.

In 2019, the Vessel became the centerpiece of New York City's Hudson Yards neighborhood. Standing at 150 feet tall, with a honeycomb-looking facade, the Vessel cost an estimated $200 million to create, as Insider previously reported.

When it opened, the Vessel was supposed to be Manhattan's freshest, most exciting art installation, adding the final touch to Hudson Yards, a $25 billion development that became the most expensive in US history, per a 2019 CBS News report.

If all went according to plan, the structure would be "to New York City what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris," Jeff Blau, the CEO of Related Companies, the developer behind Hudson Yards, told the outlet.

But things didn't go as planned.

In 2021, the Vessel closed to the public indefinitely. Two years after its closure, I checked out what could have been a structural masterpiece for New York City.

When it opened in 2019, the Vessel received mixed reviews — but tourists flocked there all the same.

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The Vessel opened in 2019 to mixed reviews — but was an instant draw for selfie-takers and Instagrammers.Katie Warren/Business Insider

According to a 2021 report by The New York Times, thousands of people visited the Vessel each day before the pandemic brought tourism to a halt — despite the fact that many critics loathed it.

That same year, Michael Kimmelman, an architecture critic for the Times, called it a "waste-basket-shaped stairway to nowhere, sheathed in a gaudy, copper-cladded steel."

When it opened, visitors were welcome to climb all over the structure.

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The structure used to be open for the public to walk and climb on.Katie Warren/Business Insider

In its nascency, tourists could walk freely through the sculpture, which consists of 154 interconnected staircases and 80 landings.

However, in January 2021, the Vessel closed to the public after three people died there by suicide, the Times reported. It briefly reopened in May of that year, with measures taken to increase safety, but closed again indefinitely after a fourth person died at the tourist attraction two months later.

Despite concerns from the community, Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, said it would not raise the stairways' barriers, which stand about waist-high, per the Times.

I visited in November, two years after the Vessel closed its stairways.

The Vessel at Hudson Yards.
The Vessel at Hudson Yards.Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

I went to see what the structure was like two years after its closure.

On a chilly, sunny Monday in November, a few dozen people were milling around the structure, snapping photos, and entering the nearby shopping mall.

Having never seen the Vessel in real life, I thought it had a certain beauty, despite what early critics said.

There was a handful of people admiring the fixture when I got there.

People walking near the Vessel in Hudson Yards.
People walking around the Vessel.Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

The number of people I saw paled in comparison to the "thousands" that the Times reported used to visit daily.

Of the people viewing the structure, I got the impression that few had sought it out as the main attraction — many just glanced at it as they walked toward the nearby shopping center.

That's a stark difference from its beginning when people would flock there to take selfies and Instagram pics.

I found that you can enter the installation's first floor — but that's it.

A few people walking into the Vessel in New York City.
There was a small line of people entering the structure.Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

I didn't realize you could still enter the Vessel's main floor, so I stopped in to see what it was like. There were a few people ahead of me in a quick-moving line.

The Vessel's interior was cool — but the excitement wore off quickly.

People admiring the Vessel from the first floor.
People admiring the Vessel from the first floor.Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

It's clear that the Vessel was supposed to be a piece of interactive art. It was meant to be a hub, a sculpture crawling with people.

When people can no longer climb the structure, its allure diminishes. And while you can still view the Vessel from the ground floor, it can be done in a few minutes. The crowd that I was with dissipated almost as soon as it formed.

Standing there, looking up at the dozens of sets of stairs, I could see the vision of what this should have been.

All the stairs were closed off, so no one could climb them.

Stairs into the upper levels were roped off.
Stairs into the upper levels were closed.Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

Each flight of stairs had a chain at the top, preventing tourists from going further. I saw people sitting on the steps, but that's as far as they could go.

A few security guards were also on the premises, ensuring no one went where they weren't supposed to.

All in all, I found the Vessel impressive to look at, but generally underwhelming.

The author takes a photo on the Vessel's reflective surface.
The author takes a photo on the Vessel's reflective surface.Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

Leaving the Vessel, I felt a bit sad.

This massive fixture had potential, but the potential is only good for so much — what's potential without follow-through?

I felt that the Vessel, in its current state, is a missed opportunity. Without working with the community to make something enjoyable and safe, all that exists is a virtually useless $200 million ball of steel.

I thought the Vessel should have been, and still could be, so much more as I left.

Read the original article on Insider