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Inside New York’s $4.5 billion art museum: the Second Avenue Subway

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Underground art.
By Leslie Josephs
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

New York has been waiting almost a century for the city’s Second Avenue subway line. And on Jan. 1, the dream officially became a reality.

With the $4.5 billion first phase of the project complete, the city’s Q line will now stop at three new stations along the East Side of Manhattan, running up to 96th Street, and at an existing station at 63rd Street.  While that might sound a bit underwhelming, passengers who head underground get an additional perk: a delightful array of art.

New York artist Jean Shin‘s work “Elevated,” at the 63rd Street stop, provides riders with a look back at New York transit history, featuring the dismantling of the elevated rails in the 1940s.

Metropolitan Transit Authority

Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz has enshrined a variety of New Yorkers on the walls of the 72nd Street station in the mosaic tile series “Perfect Strangers.” The portraits aim to capture the diversity of city residents, including a rare sight on subway walls: a gay couple holding hands.

Metropolitan Transit Authority
Office of Gov. Cuomo
Office of Gov. Cuomo
Metropolitan Transit Authority

The iconic American artist Chuck Close also created 12 portraits for the 86th Street station, featuring artists such as Kara Walker, Lou Reed, and Cecily Brown as well as a few self-portraits.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
86th Street Second Avenue Subway Station
Metropolitan Transit Authority

Finally, at 96th Street, Sarah Sze offers “Blueprint for a Landscape,” swirling images of birds, trees, and scaffolding on 4,300 porcelain tiles.

Metropolitan Transit Authority

Setting the art aside, the subway stations and trains themselves also feature bursts of color:

Office of Gov. Cuomo

Admission is cheap compared to other New York art hotspots, at $2.75. Expect crowds—and the occasional rat.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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