New York City’s Best Subway Art Guide

As a native New Yorker or a tourist looking to explore the city, you’ll no doubt take the subway. While crazy New York City subway stories make you crave a cab, New York’s underground can be a great experience, too. This is especially true is you’re into colorful creativity, as art in the subway abounds!

NYC takes its title as one of the world’s art capitals seriously, so expect to come across some of the finest art in the city just taking the subway. In addition, keep your eyes peeled for the various gems you’re sure to come across —  especially when it comes to the five installations listed below!

1. Life Underground

art in the subway
Where: 14 St @ Eighth Avenue Station

This 16-year-old installation captures “life in New York,” and is one of the city’s best pieces of art in the subway. Artist Tom Otterness used over a dozen bronze sculptures to depict everything from the homeless being watched over by police to New York’s famous sewer gators chomping on the head of a wealthy citizen. It’s easy to rush through the city when it comes to a commute, but these playful figures are worth slowing down for! Stop by the 14th ST/Eight Avenue Station to see Life Underground.

2. Happy World

art in the subway
Where: Flushing/Main Street

Flushing is often noted as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city — a fact that Ik-Joong Kang made a point of celebrating with this art piece. Happy World uses over two thousand hand-painted ceramic tiles to depict various aspects of the large world Kang saw in Flushing and beyond. This includes many different people, events and views of NYC. With so much happening all at once, it can be comforting to see it condensed into a single installation (even if condensed refers to over two-thousand tiles!).

3. REACH

Where: 34th St/Herald Sqaure

Suspended above the N/R platforms of this station, there is a green bar with sensors that run along its side. While this horizontal rack has a tendency to go unnoticed by commuters, it’s actually a brilliant piece of interactive art in the subway that encourages New Yorkers to communicate with one another, even at their busiest. Waving your hands in front of the sensors causes a light to flicker on, and a sound to come from the rack on the opposite platform. With this unique musical instrument, those on the downtown and uptown platforms can interact without a single word!

4. My Coney Island Baby

Where: Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue

There are a number of creative reasons to make your way down to Brooklyn’s Coney Island. NYC street art is one, while the other is the artwork of Robert Wilson. Showcasing Nathan’s Hot Dog stand and other famous attractions, this installation features a wall of glass bricks showcasing silkscreened images. The format of this unusual, yet unique, exhibit makes the pictures especially alluring on sunny days when light streams in, illuminating the images. While adding whimsical fun to your commute, it’s one reason to plan your Coney Island trip for a sunny day!

5. Elevated

Where: Lexington Avenue/63rd St

With the Second Avenue Station nearly a decade in the making, artist Jean Shin had to pull out all the stops when planning her contribution. Sure enough, her mural “Elevated” is a standout even among the world-class art of this brand new subway line. In addition, this piece spans over three levels of the station. It depicts the construction done to dismantle the Second and Third Avenue line, along with stills of commuters. Furthermore, all levels are composed of ceramic tile, glass mosaic and laminated glass. This piece works to connect the past of New York to the present. And this is something you can be a part of for yourself, now that this new subway line is open!

~ By guest blogger, Shania Russell, a senior at Bronx Academy of Letters with a passion for writing. She has used programs such as Young Playwrights Inc., The Moth and Girls Write Now to channel these passions. Russell is the managing editor of her school’s literary magazine, One Pen. When not busied, she can be found with her nose in a book or humming the tune of whatever musical soundtrack she is obsessed with that week. THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON NYC TOURS & PHOTO SAFARIS. 

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