Subway Station Art: Whitehall Street Station

I’ve written a number of posts about New York City’s great subway art, and the Whitehall Street Station, located at the southern tip of Manhattan, is yet another station with some great public art. Known as Passages, this exhibition by artist Frank Giorgini was commissioned by MTA Arts & Design in 2000. Giorgini specializes in making handmade ceramic tiles, and this exhibition illustrates his talents.

MTA’s website provides this description of Passages:

For the restoration of the Whitehall Street subway station, Frank Giorgioni designed elements in ceramic, stone and metal to blend with the historic fabric of the station, such as the original bands of mosaic tile work. The cityscape begin at the entrance of the station with a view of the city today and then travel backward through time, through the age of steamships, a montage of New Amsterdam, the arrival of the first settlers, and finally the era before European settlement, with Native American canoes and a marshland of flora and fauna. In another area, schools of fish are seen, in both two- and three-dimensional form, accompanying a mosaic of sea and sky. Railings in the area are in the form of cattails, capping Giorgioni’s homage to the past.

When you get off the train, you must walk up a flight of stairs to an intermediate landing. Make sure that you look around carefully on this level, as there is already interesting art to see. A lovely glass and ceramic tile mosaic mural, in tones of blue and white, are located behind a metal railing on this level.

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I didn’t realize that the metal bars in front of the seagulls looked like cattails until I read the description on MTA’s website. But if you look closer, you can see the cattail design on the top of the bars in this photo, with the seagulls behind it.

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If you don’t look closely, you may miss another piece of art in this location. See anything else in the photo above? Look closely at the bottom left corner, behind the bars. If you step up to the cat-tails and look down towards the steel beams below, you will see this metal fish sculpture.

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If you glance around, you will also see the station’s mosaic tile signs directing travelers for the correct platform. I always love these vintage signs!

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There’s an escalator that takes travelers from the intermediate landing to the upper mezzanine level. You will find original ceramic plaques depicting scenes from New York City history as the escalator carries you along. It’s a little difficult to capture good photos on a moving escalator, but here are a few of my favorites. It’s incredible to see the three-dimensional details Giorgini has created with these ceramic tiles. The ones I’ve shown show marshland before European arrival, explorer Henry Hudson’s ship the Half Moon, ferries, and skyscrapers next to Battery Park.

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To get to the Whitehall Street Station, take the R train to the southern tip of Manhattan. Nearby, you can catch the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island, stroll around Battery Park or take the boat to the Statue of Liberty, or even walk a short distance to the National Museum of the American Indian.

Subway Station Art – Prince Street Station

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I periodically feature some of the public art found in New York City subway stations, a part of the MTA Arts & Design initiative. Today’s post is about one of my favorite subway stations, the Prince Street station. The art at this station is small in scale and easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it, but the more you look, the more there is to discover. The art installation at Prince Street, created by Brooklyn artist Janet Zweig in collaboration with Edward del Rosario, is titled Carrying On. The installation is a frieze which stretches for a total of 1200 feet, including both sides of the platform. It includes 194 characters in all, made of waterjet-cut steel, slate, and marble.

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One of the reasons why this art installation is so special is because it is based on photographs the artist took of real New Yorkers. That foundation gives each figure authenticity – you may recognize scenes that you’ve seen on the streets yourself.

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Another reason why I love this particular art installation is related to Zweig’s own explanation of the title, Carrying On. Here is that description, as taken from the artist’s website:

The title, Carrying On, is a triple pun. People on the streets of New York are almost always carrying something, sometimes something huge and outlandish. After the 9/11 tragedy in New York, New Yorkers felt that they must carry on with their lives. (The frieze was begun just before 9/11 and finished three years later.) Finally, New Yorkers are notoriously opinionated and lively; they really do “carry on.”

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If you ride the New York City subways very often, or for that matter walk the streets for very long, you are likely to see people carrying around large objects. I enjoy finding those individuals in the frieze as well.

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How do you get to this frieze? Take the R or the N to the Prince Street Station. Half of the frieze is located on each platform, so you will have the opportunity to explore it regardless of which direction you are traveling.