January 16, 2017

The Second Avenue Subway Opens

The Second Avenue Subway has arrived and it is chock-full of underground art meant to inspire and invigorate.

by Jason Kontos

2nd Avenue Subway
Second Avenue Subway at 72nd Street.
2nd avenue subway, Vik Muniz
"Perfect Strangers" by Vik Muniz.

In the vein of the late Leonard Cohen's oft-sung song, "Hallelujah," the Second Avenue Subway is finally here. For a line that was originally brought into play as a possibility in 1919, it sure took years of angst, discord, and a cacophony of unpleasantness to get phase one done. But done it is, and at the start of the new year no less! The line, which is quite fabulous, is now serving a projected 200,000 daily riders, with plans to start on three additional new phases which will allow the line to run from Hanover Square in the Financial District to 125th Street. Riders are privy to a truly artful trip, with each current open station (63rd, 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets) hosting artwork from cutting-edge artists such

Vik Muniz
Artist Vik Muniz's "Perfect Strangers" includes a life-size mosaic depicting
his son dressed up in a tiger suit.

as Chuck Close, Sarah Sze, Vik Muniz, and Jean Shin. It takes the idea of art underground to a more literal sense, and we owe our thanks to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cuomo's efforts to "elevate the everyday," are profoundly appreciated at a time when the world is at odds with itself. The MTA chose the four artists out of hundreds of well-known applicants and gave them carte blanche to transform the stations into their own canvas. I suggest you take a ride on your city's new mode of transportation, but here is what to expect: The 63rd Street station is home to the work of Jean Shin, an artist known for collecting cast-off objects and turning them into monumental conceptual installations, videos, and sculptures that focus on community and identity; At the 72nd Street station you will be greeted by the work of Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist who splits his time between New York and Rio de

Daniel Boulud by Vik Muniz
A mosaic of Daniel Boulud in Vik Muniz's "Perfect Strangers"
at the 72nd Street station.

Jainero. The life-size portraits that decorate the station, including one of himself and another of chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, are based on staged photographs by the artist; The 86th Street station is home to 12 of Chuck Close's large-scale mosaic portraits of revered artists, including Cecily Brown, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, and Kara Walker; And finally, we have Sarah Sze at the 96th Street station. The artist represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 2013, and for this project, transformed the station with her drawing, "Blueprint for a Landscape." Gorgeous blue porcelain tiles depicting her creation run down the length of the escalators and through the concourse. And there it is...jump on the train!

Vik Muniz
Characters from Vik Muniz's "Perfect Strangers" at the 72nd Street Station.

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