This Artist Creates Miniatures of Iconic NYC Objects

published Sep 29, 2023
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If you’re a fan of collectible items, region-specific knickknacks, or nostalgic action figures, you’ll get a kick out of this New York-based artist and his work.

For Danny Cortes, crafting the miniature sculptures was originally a hobby, but it quickly turned into a passion. His creative pastime developed during the beginning of the pandemic following a divorce, unemployment, and a four-year probationary period. As he was scrolling through social media, he came across a “diorama of a World War II scene, then a model railroad set, then intricate, hyper-realistic models of movie sets,” according to his interview with The New York Times.

This community of diorama artists — combined with his longtime history of collecting action figures — inspired him to play around with materials like poster board to create a bodega icebox. Native New Yorkers or transplants that moved to the city will immediately recognize the common neighborhood fixture, so it’s not a surprise that his creation was loved. Although the item was three inches tall, it “turned his life around” and was sold at Sotheby’s last year for $1,890.

“I loved that when I worked on a piece, I didn’t think about my problems — my divorce, the pandemic,” Cortes said in the interview. “It was an escape — like I’m meditating, literally floating. I didn’t have a problem in the world. I wanted that high again, I kept chasing that.” Now, Cortes’ work can be found in the homes of hip-hop stars like 2 Chainz and Dave East.

In addition to creating the miniature fixtures, he’s also customized items to appeal to New Yorkers. On his TikTok account, he shared a video of a tiny, green trash can (the size of a pencil holder) that you’ll see just about anywhere in the city. 

As Cortes continues to grow his unique business, he’s relaxing with his fiancée in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and contemplating architecture school. To learn more about Cortes’ story and his miniature masterpieces, read the rest of The New York Times article here or check out his Instagram.