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

Getting There
Getting There

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.

Photo: Rob Wilson

Jean Shin Mural "Elevated" at the 63rd St Station

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.

Vik Muniz 72nd St Station
(Metropolitan Transit Authority)
(Office of Gov. Cuomo)
(Office of Gov. Cuomo)

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.

86th Street Second Avenue Subway Station
86th Street Second Avenue Subway Station (Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)
Chuck Close
(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.

Sarah Sze

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.

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