The bar for public art is fairly low. Communities seem far more excited to have relieved a space from the vice-like grip of commercialism than actually following through with making sure that the art is any good. This is a serious flaw in public art, and one that even has the ability to make even the most ardent leftist turn their back on the very idea of it. Most ads have some sort of coherence, a viable message to parse — we know why they’re so bad. Public art just ends up being mostly underwhelming, and for the most part, that’s fine. It’s nice to think of the possibilities now that the space has been liberated. Which is why the work of Peter Tunney is so incredibly offensive to any sane person’s sensibilities. It’s ugly. It makes no sense. And it will (rightfully) turn many people off of the entire idea of public art. Death to Peter Tunney.

In case you have no idea what I’m discussing, here’s a picture of Peter Tunney:

Peter Tunney

Here’s the work he does:



This billboard is beside the Major Deegan Expressway, which greets commuters as they enter the South Bronx. The device he is employing is a portmanteau, a combination of the words attitude and gratitude. Get what he has done there? It is hideous.

There’s more.


Here, the artist has taken the words of Carl Sandburg and flipped a few letters. It is Tunney showing his “grAttitude” to the great poet from the Windy City. Tunney’s work is aspirational. Tunney would like everyone’s dreams to take flight, like Peter Tunney’s, through their mix of urban swagger and drive. You have to dream, Tunney reminds us. In an interview he explained the inspiration for the billboard project:

I was driving into NYC, and everyday, I’d see the same billboards. And it all felt so fake. I was just tired of these too-skinny models almost pretending to give each other oral sex. Or billboard about buying beer, stupid stuff. What if some rich guy put up a billboard that said, “Everything is okay”? So I just started talking about that, and then the next thing you know, the billboards went up.

That’s right. There’s not some benevolent non-profit that has contracted with Mr. Tunney. He spent his own money, personally contacting the owners of the billboards to subject us to this incredible mediocrity.

He’s also apparently disapproving of oral sex.

Here he explains the inspiration behind his catch phrase:

Well, it’s just come to me over a while that gratitude is not just something you say when you get what you want. I like the idea of putting it out there of gratitude as an action. How are you expressing your gratitude specifically? What is the physical manifestation of that? And I meditated about that.

Meditate on this, Peter. No one likes your billboards. Everybody thinks they’re horrible. At best, they’re infuriating. At worst, they’re offensive.

On the Queens-Midtown Expressway, Mr. Tunney posted a new sign a few weeks ago:


The sign that marks one “leaving the city of dreams” is at the entrance to two boroughs that hold the majority of the New York City population. These are the dreamers that will keep the city aspirational and hustling long after Mr. Tunney has exhausted himself of posting these inane messages on billboards around the city. But to the artist, these people are nothing – not worthy of their dreams. We’re only now privy to his dream of a debased artist in a permissive culture, where a hack with a few dollars in his pocket can ruin the idea of public art entirely. I show no gratitude. I hope Mr. Tunney feels only remorse.

Here’s a music video Peter Tunney directed for Nick Jonas:

It is the worst music video ever made.


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  • Jamie_McDonald

    He does make one yearn for the warm, quiet subtlety of Guy Fieri.

  • Antoine

    I personally appreciate his reasoning and have enjoyed driving by the work itself. This article comes off as one of those hipster rants about, literally, how something isn’t “hip” enough. I can tell you two things 1) There /are/ people who enjoy the billboards, but likely the regular commuters (not self-pronounced artistes like yourself). 2) He probably doesn’t mind oral sex, though maybe you’re more knowledgeable on that topic than I. Criticism is great, but irrelevant and irreverent insults aren’t constructive at all (unless they’re the topic of discussion).

    • erivlinn

      Nice try…Mr. Tunney!

  • Brian Outridge

    One guy puts billboards with positive statements around NYC, another goes to his keyboard and spews negative. Why do you have time to hate someone else’s work? Go create something, a critic is so far below the lowest of artists. I have met Peter many times, no I do not work for him, he is a generous and creative person just out there making stuff. The devil? There are people who spend their days getting more nicotine into cigarettes, or selling guns to children… Meanwhile you feel THIS subjective endeavor deserves this type of passionate negative attention? So brave of you. Im sure just like the other person who likes his work below I will be accused of being him, or one of his employees, because anyone who disagrees with your opinion (and it is an opinion) MUST be a fake user right? It couldn’t possibly be that there are thousands of people who love and own his art.

    • erivlinn

      You almost had me believing this isn’t you Tunney, until you mentioned the “thousands” of people who love your art. Try again, Peter!

  • MBH

    I LOVE Peter Tunney’s work. I purchased one of his pieces years ago in Miami (Wynwood) during Art Basel. You have a lot of time on your hands and a very negative perspective on positive messages. But I suppose there are plenty of people who hate(d) Warhol, Basquiat, Lichtenstein, Koons, Fairey, Banksy…etc… etc…

    • Brooklyn11237

      If you have purchased a piece from Mr. Tunney, you are a sucker of the first order. I mean, why? Was Britto’s store closed? And to compare him to any of the artists you mentioned is not just laughable but quite insane. Yeah, there were people who hated Jesus, too, amirite?

      • MBH

        I already have a Britto…

        • Brooklyn11237

          Oh dear, thanks for the laugh.

  • Brooklyn11237

    thank you thank you thank you! I have met this troll and he is a horrible, plastic, misogynistic dolt. I cringe every time I see that billboard “GRATTITUDE” and it poisons the neighborhood where I live. I hate billboards to begin with, but I’d rather see a hundred “Grinder”, “The Intern”, “Ellen”, or “Fiat” billboards than have to take one more look at that ego-inflating phoniness on display on “GRATTITUDE”. At least most of the commercial billboards I mentioned have some panache, and look like they took some creative work from real design professionals. His stuff is beyond mediocre. Oh, hey, did he mention he was Peter Beard’s friend? I mean, in the last minute?

    All I can say, Max Rivlin-Nadler, is muchas gracias por este artículo! Keep it up!

  • Prickly

    I’m guessing Peter Tunney stole your girlfriend, or something along those lines, for you to heap so much hate on someone. His art may not be your thing, nor his personality, but after reading that I think you need some therapy.

    • erivlinn

      Nice try, Tunney!

  • EJP

    Dude, you’re a whiny bitch. Fly away MOSQUITO!

    • erivlinn

      Getting nasty there, Tunney!

  • Barney Loehnis

    Regardless of the artist, as I pass by Grattitude each day, I am always struck by it. It doesn’t have a profound influence on my day; but for a millisecond every day, I am reminded to be thankful, and that I am in control of my own attitude to others. For me, a work that can change my perception of others and the day, ranks up there with all good public art.

    • erivlinn

      Keep coming up with these fake accounts, Tunney! Maybe you’ll trick me one day!

  • paddy7812

    Obviously the article writer thinks any compliments about PT are from PT. Listen, I have my own opinion about Peter . But the billboards are less offensive than bad tags. And I am pretty sick of reality trash models in my line of vision as I stare blankly from my cab. The article comes off as a transplanted suburban striver trying to pick a fight. And, no, I’m not Peter. I , in fact, find him exhausting.

    • erivlinn

      The greatest misdirection yet…. TUNNEY!