The MTA arts collection just got bigger! New public art installations by famous names such as Yayoi Kusama and Kiki Smith are now accessible to the public after yesterday’s opening of Grand Central Madison, the LIRR terminal below Grand Central Terminal. The highly anticipated opening of the concourse brings with it eight new tracks and a handful of eye-catching art installations. Check out photographs of the art in Grand Central Madison from our opening day trip to the brand-new terminal!
1. A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe by Yayoi Kusama
Internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama’s glass mosaic piece brings 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.
2. Mosaics by Kiki Smith
Kiki Smith is another famous artist featured in the new eastside corridor. Smith’s art in Grand Central Madison appears in various locations. 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.
3. Still Life by Paul Pfeiffer
In addition to Smith and Kusama’s permanent installations, the new concourse will also feature a variety of temporary works. A rotating photography lightbox exhibition, presented in partnership with the International Center of Photography (ICP), has a prominent place in the new space. The inaugural ICP exhibition is a new series of photographs by photographer Paul Pfeiffer.
Titled Still Life, the exhibition pays homage to the iconic New York City street performer “Da Gold Man” who acted as a living statue on the streets of Times Square for over 17 years. The exhibit is made up of 10 large-scale photographs, each measuring approximately 75 inches tall and 100 inches wide. The images are printed on backlit film and displayed in five custom-made, double-sided lightboxes. The artwork is the first in a series of contemporary
photography exhibitions to be featured in the large-scale lightboxes in the south concourse of the new Grand Central Madison terminal.
4. Multiple Digital Artworks
The north end of the Madison Concourse will be filled with a continually changing display of digital art by various artists. The first three newly commissioned works that will grace the giant five-channel LED screens were created by artists Gabriel Barcia-Colombo, Jordan Bruner, and Red Nose Studio. Each screen measures 17 feet wide and over 7. feet tall. All of the digital artwork pieces are two minutes in length.
In Gabriel Barcia-Colombo’s piece Platform, passersby will see life-scale portraits of 40 New Yorkers gathering in super slow-motion. The work “examines what it means to be back together in a crowd post-pandemic. The moment of awe and interaction between those featured on-screen and the commuters passing through Grand Central Madison creates an ephemeral encounter that makes New York unique.” In digital illustrator Jordan Bruner’s The Grand Wander (pictured above), viewers explore many of the sights that pop up while traveling from Grand Central to Long Island, including the cityscape of midtown Manhattan, wildlife and beaches, the historic fishing industry, local wineries, and food culture. In the final piece, Hat Trick by Red Nose Studio, commuters will be treated to a stop-motion animation that follows a playful cat-and-mouse chase between a man and his bowler hat through Grand Central Madison.
5. Poetry in Motion
A classic part of the subway, Poetry in Motion – presented by the Poetry of Society of America in partnership with MTA Arts & Design – will also have a place in the corridor. Selected works will appear on digital screens throughout the concourse level which runs from 43rd Street to 48th Street.
The poems are accompanied by beautiful works of visual art. Currently at the station visitors will see Mary Ruefle’s “Voyager” accompanied by Bensonhurst Gardens (2012) by Francesco Simeti; Ashbery-Bravo’s “Train Rising Out of the Sea” with Duration (2017) by Monika Bravo; Toi Derricotte’s “A nap” with Forte (Quarropas) (2020) by Barbara
Takenaga; Heather McHugh’s “A Night in a World” with Edges of a South Brooklyn Sky (2018) by Sally Gil; Aracelis Girmay’s “Noche de Lluvia, San Salvador” with Stream (2001) by Elizabeth Murray.
Bonus: Quotes About New York City
On the walls of the concourse and mezzanine levels, there are many quotes from famous New Yorkers, writers, and artists who have waxed poetic about the city. On our opening day visit, we noticed quotes from Derek Jeter, Joan Didion, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Ada Limon. The words capture the spirit of New York City and the awe often felt upon arrival. Perfectly fitting for the impressive new train terminal that was decades in the making!
Next, check out more from our visit to Grand Central Madison and 12 Beautiful Works of Art to Discover in Grand Central