Artwork renderings for Second Avenue Subway Stations at 96th Street. Commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design. Image via: Sarah Sze.

Working alongside the MTA architecture team in bringing beauty and inspiration into new Second Avenue Subway line is MTA’s Arts for Transit and Urban Design department, led by artist and curator Sandra Bloodworth. Building on the MTA’s nearly three-decade history of enlivening subway and commuter rail stations with mosaics and sculpture, the agency has commissioned art that accompanies riders from the sidewalk to the platform and helps shape spaces.

While the Second Avenue Subway will house New York City’s distinctive mosaic art, what sets it apart from older train stations is its open expanses of space, two-block long concourses and higher ceilings offering the opportunity to showcase art in a new way and more triumphant way.

Along the walls of the 63rd Street station, Jean Shin, will display archival photographs that depict the dismantling of the Second Avenue elevated line. This ceramic and glass photographic installation will allow riders a chance to see themselves reflected in images of the past as they travel through the city. It is Jean’s vision that contemporary urban life should co-exist with images of the past as reminders of the city’s ever-changing nature.

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Artwork renderings for Second Avenue Subway Stations at 63rd Street. Commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design. Image via Jean Shin/RSVP Architecture

At the 96th Street station, Sarah Sze, who recently completed a sculpture for the High Line, will use porcelain to play with travelers’ sense of light, space and perspective [rendering at top of article]. Sarah’s installation displays a series of her wall drawings to become part of the station, after being fired directly onto the porcelain wall panels. The drawings depict dynamic landscapes evoking wind, architecture, flora and dramatic energy fields divided into three distinct palettes of blue, violet, and lavender located at three different entrances.

Transportation_SAS_NYC_Bhushan Mondkar_Untapped Cities_Chuck Close-86th St SASArtwork renderings for Second Avenue Subway Stations at 86th Street Street. Commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design. Image via Chuck Close

For the 86th street station, Chuck Close, one of the most widely known artists today for pop-art and photo-realism, will display large and intricately designed portraits of New York’s cultural figures. Through his famous method of breaking down the subject into dabs and grids, the final portraits will be rendered in mosaics for the subway installation. Working closely with the fabricators, the boundaries of the materials are being rigorously tested to ensure the strength and durability for what will be the largest mosaic public art work that Mr. Close has ever created.

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Artwork renderings for Second Avenue Subway Stations at 63rd Street. Commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design.  Image via Jean Shin/RSVP Architecture

Artist and photographer, Vik Muniz, selected for the 72nd Street Station, will install his work entitled “Perfect Strangers”. The series of photographs transferred into life sized mosaics, celebrates the many interesting and unique characters one sees on the train complete with their own narratives and located at strategic spots within the station. With the intent to encourage actual riders to engage with the mosaics, Vik aims to humanize the subway in a new and interactive way for the commuter, the passerby and the ever-inspired visitor, once the second avenue subway opens to public in December 2016.

See more subway art in our article, Top 10 Subway Art Installations in NYC

Bhushan is an Architect and Urban Designer at Perkins Eastman. Get in touch with him @Bhushan_NYC. This article was written in part by Catherine Mondkar


  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    This looks almost like one of the fantasies in my novel, “Subway Hitchhikers,” drafted decades ago. How much the city’s changed since the hippie era. In the meantime, the re-release of the novel as an ebook seems more timely than ever. How much are we missing as we speed along? Admittedly, I see the systems as an outsider, free of the daily commute, but always feels to me like an amusement park of sorts.

  2. ELEANOR LUNN says:

    This article is clear ,concise and complete. It is nice to know what is in the works on the subway, the life blood of this great city! Thank you.

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