The mighty New York City subway system, which began operations in 1904, is extraordinary by any measure. On average, 4.8 million passengers use it daily. Operating 24/7, it comprises 656 miles of track that efficiently link 468 stations (the largest number of any subway system in the world). However, delays due to mechanical failures or construction sometimes happen. Dirt, noise, and crowding are nuisances. But even when it is a grind, it uplifts thanks to its extensive art.
From its beginnings, design aesthetics have been important. In many older, tiled stations, even basic, utilitarian signage frequently takes the form of expertly crafted mosaics (see photo, right). But that’s not all. In many older stations vintage faience plaques charmingly depict local historic events or sites. Moreover, in recent decades the Metropolitan Transit for Art program has commissioned and installed hundreds of new, stunning works throughout the system. For example, Ming Fay’s Shad Crossing (see photo, top) refreshes commuters with stunning colorful images drawn from nature’s waterways in the gritty depths of the Delancey Street/Essex Street station.
To begin a virtual tour of some of the subway system’s art, click on the photo in the upper left-hand corner of the gallery. Alternatively, click on any photo that captures your fancy.