If there’s anything New Yorkers complain about along with rent, it’s the subway. Yes, it’s one of only three cities in the world with a 24/hour 365/day a year public transportation system. Yes, it’s far cheaper than the Tube in London, not to mention a car payment + insurance + gas. Yes, it brings New Yorkers together as a people, forcing them to share public space, thus further enabling cultural and racial acceptance, the fundamental trademark of New York City society. Yes, it gives New Yorkers something to collectively joke about — such as: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s showtime!”
But don’t we still just want to murder someone when we hear the words, “We’re delayed because of train traffic ahead of us. Please be patient . . .”?
There’s something else though, that largely goes unnoticed in the subway, and that’s the MTA’s Arts & Designprojects — the murals, installations, paintings and sculpture that inhabit stations throughout the city. Subway station art adds atmosphere to the metro, is socially and politically conscious, and sometimes done by world-renowned artists who were commissioned directly from the city. There is so much work to admire, and we should stop and take a look at it. If anything, to take a little break between our complaining.
Here are a few examples of some subway station art, but there are many more.
Station: 8th Avenue and 14th Street, A/C/E and L
Artwork: Life Underground by Tom Otterness
This one is a favorite of New Yorkers. These hilarious cartoon bronze sculptures really take over the station depicting playful yet sometimes disturbing situations, such as an alligator dipping its head out of a manhole to bite a person with a moneybag head. So, what’s going on here? The installation is a parody of Boss Tweed and big money greed.
Station: 50th Street, 1/2 Trains
Artwork: Alice: The Way Out by Liliana Porter
Source: MTA Arts & Design
As you were waiting for the 1 Train to come did you ever think to yourself, “Wait, is that the Mad Hatter?” Yes. Yes it is.
Station: Prince Street, N/Q/R Trains
Artwork: Carrying On by Janet Zweig
This one is very sad. What the Prince Street subway station is actually depicting is a narrative of 1,200 people who were walking away from the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. The artwork simultaneously speaks of the people who had to walk from the event carrying things in their hands, but also how New York as a place must carry on. The piece pays homage to those directly affected by 9/11, and is also a testament to the spirit of New Yorkers.
Station: 42nd Street — Times Square, Too Many Trains to List
Artwork: Next Stop, Times Square by Roy Lichtenstein
Lichtenstein’s 6 feet high and 53 feet long enamel mural was a gift to New York City, the place of his birth, death, and most of his life. It’s a futuristic depiction of NYC transportation, something that Lichtenstein loved and believed in. The MTA commissioned Lichtenstein for public art in 1992 and installed the piece in 2002.