The MTA arts collection just got bigger! New public art installations by famous names such as Yayoi Kusama and Kiki Smith will adorn the soon-to-open Cultural Corridor in Grand Central Madison, the LIRR terminal below Grand Central Terminal. The highly anticipated opening of the corridor is set to take place this month, and the new art installations make it even that much more exciting.
Internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama’s glass mosaic piece will bring a shock of color to the Madison Concourse level between 46th and 47th Streets. Titled A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe (2022), the vibrant work measures 120 feet wide by 7 feet tall, for a total coverage area of approximately 875 square feet. “This new, flowing composition, originating from her extensive body of My Eternal Soul paintings spills energy and joy out into the Grand Central Madison passageway. The mural is a journey itself, inspiring incredible moments as you walk along the grand mosaic artwork,” explained Sandra Bloodworth, Director, MTA Arts & Design.
The mosaic features abstract and figurative images that look like faces, the sun, or even microscopic cells. They are meant to evoke the themes of Love, universe, and peace for all mankind, a message central to Kusama’s work. A poem written by Kusama accompanies the mosaic, which was fabricated by Miotto Mosaics Art Studios:
This is Yayoi Kusama.
I offer you a message of love, directly from my heart unto the universe.
May you all experience the true beauty of loving humanity.
Human life is beautiful.
My wish is to deliver this vision, with all that is my life, to the people of New York.
Kiki Smith is another famous artist that will be featured in the new eastside corridor. Smith’s work will be spread throughout the corridor in various locations. The pieces are titled River Light, The Water’s Way, The Presence, The Spring, and The Sound (2022). Smith’s artwork brings a little bit of the outdoors into the underground terminal space. Like much of her work since the 1980s, these mosaics, which appear throughout two levels of the corridor, draw inspiration from a number of sources “spanning scientific anatomical renderings from the eighteenth century to the abject imagery of relics, memento mori, folklore, mythology, Byzantine iconography, and medieval altarpieces.”
River Light is the first piece that greets you as you enter Madison Concourse from the historic Grand Central Terminal. This specific piece was “inspired by the way sunlight glints on the surface of the East River, the threshold between Manhattan and Long Island.” The mosaic pays homage to the nearby celestial painting on Grand Central’s ceiling, by incorporating celestial bodies. The look of a cyanotype artwork is mimicked by custom-made patterned glass pieces in shades of blue tones and white arranged in a way to provide a sense of movement as visitors pass by.
On the Mezzanine level of Grand Central Madison, four more mosaics by Smith bring flora and fauna into the subterranean space and continue the conceptual conversation with Grand Central Terminal and Long Island. These mosaics are glass tile renderings of photographs Smith took of the local landscape and animal life on Long Island. The mosaics are framed in four arched node walls. Natural stones are incorporated into the artwork at 45th Street, The Water’s Way, which is based on a collage by the artist. At 46th Street, a lone deer stands among gold foil reeds and under a spattering of Smith’s iconic blue stars – Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and the North Star – in The Presence. In The Spring at 47th Street, the native wild turkeys of Long Island (there are 6,000!) are pictured in a lush forest. Finally, The Sound at 48th Street, the northernmost and longest mosaic, shows a portal to Long Island’s famous waterway.
“I made images from nature that hold affection and personal significance to me as I hope they will for others,” states artist Kiki Smith. “I am very honored to be included in the tradition of artists making work for the MTA, particularly as I have rarely had the opportunity to make something that lives within the public realm. I tried to bring pleasure to people that may feel hectic as they move to-and-fro and to give them an image to locate themselves in the station and to carry with them home.” In total, Smith’s mosaics cover 1,400 square feet and were fabricated by Mayer of Munich, a partner of Smith’s for 25 years.
In addition to Smith and Kusama’s permanent installations, the new concourse will also feature a variety of temporary works. Changing digital artwork will appear on five monumental LED screens, commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. The inaugural digital art display will present works by Gabriel Barcia-Colombo, Jordan Bruner, and Red Nose Studio.
Rotating photography lightbox exhibitions, presented in partnership with the International Center of Photography (ICP), will also have a prominent place in the new space. The inaugural ICP exhibition will be a new series by photographer Paul Pfeiffer. A classic part of the subway, Poetry in Motion, presented in partnership with the Poetry Society of America will also have a place in the corridor. MTA MUSIC plans to host live performances throughout the terminal. The opening of Grand Central Terminal has been long awaited and these new public art installations make the opening even more momentous.
Next, check out the 9 Hidden Places in Grand Central and 12 Beautiful Works of Art to Discover in Grand Central