Bonus: Keith Haring

Crack is Whack mural by Keith Haring in Harlem
Keith Haring Mural in Harlem

The MTA Arts & Design program officially began in 1985, but that doesn’t mean artists weren’t already leaving their mark on the subway in an unofficial capacity. In the early 1980s as graffiti artists tagged subway cars, burgeoning artist Keith Haring found a unique canvas for his own drawings – the blank advertising panels covered with black paper. In 1980, Haring began using these empty spaces as a “laboratory” where he experimented with what would become his iconic line drawings. He carried on with this work for five years.

Underground Art in the Subway Tour

Underneath the Fulton Center Sky Reflector

Haring said of his subway drawings, “…although my career aboveground has skyrocketed, the subway is still my favorite place to draw. There is something very “real” about the subway system and the people who travel in it; perhaps there is not another place in the world where people of such diverse appearance, background, and lifestyle have intermingled for a common purpose.” Though there is none of Haring’s work on permanent view in the subway station today, you can see his art in many above-ground locations across New York City.

Next, check out 5 Interactive Subway Art Pieces and 10 Hidden Subway Art Pieces