Vito Acconci / Acconci Studio, Wall-Slide, 2002 at Yankee Stadium
In 2012, we ventured through the entire subway system in New York City, looking for the best subway art. Here are our top 10 favorites, gathered into one article! For more, check out the separate pieces on the 7 line, J/Z, G/L, B/D/F/M, A/C/E, N/Q/R, 4/5/6, and the 1/2/3.
To see some underground art of the subway for yourself, you can join an upcoming Untapped Cities tour of Underground Art in the NYC Subway!
The vibrant colors of the naturalistic mosaic that coats the walls at the Essex & Delancey subway station brings a splash of color to subterranean New York.
One of the more remarkable installations on this list is George Trakas’s “Hook, Line, and Sinker,” a steel sailboat suspended the middle of the station, high above the sea of human transit.
Inspired by the curves and drops of the nearby Cyclone roller coaster, this station’s walls and stairways seem to dip and sway as you walk past. An intersection of art and architecture, this station’s Wavewall is a must-see.
Jackie Chang, Signs of Life, 2000.
A favorite of Instagram users across Brooklyn and beyond, the philosophically challenging statements within Jackie Chang’s “Signs of Life” murals directly address commuters at this station, asking them to pick a side on issues such as “Faith or Fate?” and “History or Your Story?”
Out of the many mosaics that adorn the MTA subway, Deborah Brown’s Platform Diving adds quite a playful nature to this station. With beluga whales, turtles, and manatees making their underwater commute, Brown mischievously places these itinerant animals right behind their human counterparts.
One of the few installations that are actually located outside of the subway system itself, Max Neuhaus’s sound art installation is unmarked and unnamed, and therefore easy to miss. If you stand on top of the subway grates on 7th Avenue on a day with less human traffic, though, you’ll hear it–deep, organ-like sounds flowing up from the grating like steam.
4. Smith-9th Street (F/G)
The renovated station which re-opened in April 2013 has two pieces of nautically influenced art by Alyson Shotz, including nautical charts from Gowanus and Red Hook, its surrounding neighborhoods, on every window, and the larger scale Compass Bearings, at the foot of the escalators.
Leo Villareal, Hive, 2012.
Brightening up this station is Leo Villareal’s neon light installation. Villareal, whose repeating hexagonal light sculptures together resemble a glowing beehive, seems to be commenting on the high-speed buzz of life that daily passes through the station.
Samm Kunce, Under Bryant Park, 2002.
One of the largest subway art pieces in the city is Samm Kunce’s Under Bryant Park (2002), which is, as you would guess, in the subway station beneath the park itself. A grand and awe-inspiring depiction of lightning stretching across the sky, the mural also contains quotes from Mother Goose and Carl Jung.
A rendering of the installed art piece at the abandoned Myrtle Ave subway station. Source:MTA
Closed in 1956, Myrtle Ave subway station used to run on the BMT line between Manhattan Bridge and DeKalb Avenue. The northbound platform still exists and an artwork called Masstransiscope by Bill Brand is located inide. Installed in 1980, the piece works like a giant zoetrope. The artwork is painted on a 300 feet of reflected material and the inside is illuminated by fluorescent lights. The piece was restored in 2008 and after another restoration this year, you can finally check it out again. See here for a video.
Bonus: There’s also a real Roy Lichtenstein, signed, right in Times Square!