As I’ve written about before on numerous occasions, New York City has a robust arts program throughout its subway system. (You can see those other posts by clicking the “Transportation” link on the right-hand side of the blog.) By far, the largest and most diverse collection of subway station art in the city is located at the Times Square-42nd Street station in Manhattan. In fact, the art offerings at this station qualify it as an underground museum in my estimation, worth the time it will take to meander all parts of the station to discover hidden gems.
So let me take you on a tour of this “underground museum.” First, be on the lookout for “Losing My Marbles,” a set of fun, colorful glass mosaic walls by artist Lisa Dinhofer. This artwork is located on the mezzanine level near the A/C/E platforms.
Another glass mosaic mural, “New York in Transit,” is located over a stairwell connecting the mezzanine level to the N/Q/R platforms. The artist, Jacob Lawrence, came of age in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and is known for his pioneering contributions to documenting African-American history through art. The angles makes it hard to get good photos of the entire mural, as the glass tiles reflect the light, but I was able to get a good close-up photo.
Nearby is this mural by iconic pop art artist Roy Lichtenstein, titled “Times Square Mural, 2002.” Once again, to spot this mural you have to look up!
At the mezzanine level near the 7 train platform you will find two glass mosaic tile murals by artist Jack Beal, titled “The Onset of Winter” and “The Return of Spring.” These murals portray scenes of vintage New York City life near the subway station.
In a corridor between the 1/2/3/ and S platforms you will find 35 small vibrant ceramic panels by artist Toby Buonagurio. This installation is titled “Times Square Times: 35 Times.” Here are a few of my favorites.
In the corridors connecting the A/C/E platforms to the rest of the Times Square-42nd Street station, there a series of more than 60 glass mosaic works by artist Jane Dickson called “The Revelers.” The mosaics bring the spirit of New Year’s Eve at Times Square underground. Here are a few of my favorites.
Finally, there is this unique installation, a poem written by Norman B. Colp titled “The Commuter’s Lament,” or “A Close Shave.” In creating this installation, Colp drew inspiration from vintage roadside advertising campaigns by a company called Burma-Shave, which had catchy slogans printed on a series of signs along the side of roads. You’ll find “The Commuter’s Lament” in a long corridor near the A/C/E platform. Make sure you look up as you walk – otherwise you’ll miss the lines of the poem as they are attached to ceiling beams. It’s not in the most pristine condition, as it’s been up since 1991, but it is still a lot of fun.
Here is the full text of “The Commuter’s Lament”:
Why the pain?
Just go home
Do it again.
The tone of the poem has been controversial, as some people believe that Colp was too negative about life in New York City. For most New Yorkers though, it realistically expresses the often tiring daily commute in a wry, yet humorous way. (I fall into the second category, by the way!)
The Times Square station is large and sprawling, with platforms connected by ramps, stairways, and long corridors stretching multiple city blocks underground. Taking any of these trains will get you there: the A, C, E, N, Q, R, 1, 2, 3, 7, or S (shuttle). Technically, the A, C, and E station is the 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal station, but it is fully connected to the Times Square station.