A Times Square piece of art in the subway station | LivingIn
Guide to NYC Off the Stop

Find Your Creative Side with NYC’s Underground Art

August 28, 2018

Your morning commute may not feel particularly inspiring, but the city subway system is filled with delightful surprises. If you take a moment to look around, you’ll see that some of the stations you trudge through every day have masterful pieces of underground art with great stories behind them. Here are a few of our favorites…

An entire wall covered in a painting of a field | LivingIn

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Ming Fay’s Shad Crossing and Delancey Orchard at Delancey Street-Essex Street

J/M/Z/F Lines
Delancey Street & Essex Street
New York, NY 10002

Artist Ming Fay’s glass mosaics on the platform and mezzanine of the Delancey Street-Essex Street stop have been infusing boring subway trips with unexpected beauty since being installed in 2004. The artist conducted extensive research into the history of the neighborhood, which she expressed visually in a series of watercolor sketches. Those sketches were then transformed into mosaics by a team of craftsmen. Shad Crossing, located on the walls of the mezzanine, honors the American Shad, a fish which has a long and storied history in the Hudson Valley. On the Manhattan-bound platform, you’ll spot the Delancey Orchard, which depicts the famous Delancey family’s striking 18th-century farm that once spanned from the East River to the Hudson River. The Delancey’s cherry orchard is depicted on the Brooklyn-bound platform.

A cartoonish statue in the NYC subway | LivingIn

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Tom Otterness’ Life Underground at 14th Street/Eighth Avenue Station

A/C/E/L Lines
Eighth Avenue & West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011

There is something so charming and surprising about sculptor Tom Otterness’ surreal cartoonish subway artwork. He created some 130 bronze figures from the mid-90s through 2004, and sprinkled them throughout the 14th Street/Eighth Avenue station, above and below ground. He placed them in unexpected spots all across the station—on railings, columns, and even benches. Just when you think you’ve seen them all, you’re liable to walk past a sculpture of an alligator climbing out of a sewer or an enormous cartoon foot. Much of this art was done by Otterness for free out of sheer excitement, as he ended up delivering four or five times what the original commission called for.

The Times Square mural at Times Square-42nd St. | LivingIn

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Roy Lichtenstein’s Times Square Mural at Times Square-42nd Street

N/Q/R/S/W/1/2/3 Lines, Mezzanine
West 42nd Street at Broadway, 7th & 8th Avenues
New York, NY 10036

One of the most famous pop artists of all time, Roy Lichtenstein was a New Yorker born and raised. As a result, it’s only fitting that his subway art decorates the walls of the Times Square subway in the heart of the city. His designs were conveyed in 16 porcelain enamels which are spread across the walls of the mezzanine. The entire piece was a gift from the artist to his city, and strongly evokes much of his previous work with its primary colors, cartoon-like figures, and train imagery.

A piece of subway mosaic art | LivingIn

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Frank Leslie Hampton’s Uptown New York at Tremont Avenue

B/D Lines, Mezzanine
East Tremont Avenue & Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10453

This piece of mosaic subway art was meticulously constructed out of glass, stone, and marble to cover the mezzanine at the Tremont Avenue subway station. Artist Frank Hampton took inspiration from the actual rooftop views he used to see as a child growing up in a Bronx apartment building. The result is a colorful scene of surprising intimacy that celebrates all things the Bronx.

Ik-Joong Kang's Happy World at Flushing-Main Street | LivingIn

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Ik-Joong Kang’s Happy World at Flushing-Main Street

7 Line, Mezzanine
Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue
Queens, NY 11354

This 1999 ceramic tile piece adds a little bit of cartoon whimsy to the mezzanine at the Flushing-Main Street stop in Queens. A celebration of the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity and emerging Chinatown, this piece of underground art is made up of more than 2,000 ceramic tiles depicting events throughout the community. Kang was inspired by actual life scenes that played out on the subway, and he began taking small canvases with him on his daily commutes so he could depict what he saw. Some of these images eventually became part of the final piece.

Perasma I & II; Dappelganger at Astoria 30th Avenue Station | LivingIn

Image by Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit via Flickr

Stephen Westfall’s Perasma I & II; Dappelganger at Astoria 30th Avenue Station

N/W Lines
30th Avenue & 31st Street
Queens, NY 11102

This Astoria station just reopened in late June of this year after months of renovations, which included the installation of mirrored glass artwork by Stephen Westfall. These laminated panels decorate the station’s mezzanine, depicting abstract patterns fashioned from geometric shapes in a rainbow of vibrant colors.

New York City is full of wonder both above and below the pavement; whether you’re on a sightseeing tour of the city or on your way to work, take a moment to browse the works on display underground—or spend a weekend visiting those neighborhoods you’ve been meaning to visit so you can get your fill of our city and it’s moving subway art.

Read our Citi Habitats neighborhood guides for ideas of where to take your journey!

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