29 September 2009

More to love about New York and more art underground

I brought up New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority and their Arts for Transit program a couple of weeks ago. The MTA dedicates 1% of the money it brings in every year to fund permanent art installations throughout New York's entire transit system.

Over the course of the last 21 years, the MTA has assembled what's clearly New York's most expansive art collection. The works are all site-specific and feature media that range from mosaic to cast bronze and from faceted glass to enamel.

My smart friend Tom knows I love the Arts for Transit program and he sent me some images of some gorgeous mosaics located throughout the MTA's system and he sent me the link to the directory of these installations. I spent an hour poking around and jumping from station to station, just looking for works I already know and love and earmarking works to find the next time I'm in the City. I came across an old favorite and I hadn't thought about it in years.

This is Canal Street.

Canal Street offers what I say is the most intense example of urban life that there is to be found in the US. It's impossible to walk down Canal Street and not get caught up in the crush of humanity and traffic and noise and the thrill of being alive in the center of the universe.

Now if you duck down this hole in the sidewalk at the corner of Canal Street and 6th Avenue, you'll come face to face with Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz's The Gathering from 2001.

The Gathering is a collection of 181 life-sized, bronze blackbirds, grackles and crows and they're integrated perfectly into the grates and gates of the station and platforms.

Canal Street's about as far as one can be removed from anything resembling a non-human life form and it's a pretty jarring surprise to run into 181 black birds in a subway station underneath the bedlam unfolding in the streets above. I love birds, I love New York and I love art. It's a grand slam. Thank you MTA.

The Gathering is the work of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz and I wrote about them last August. Martin and Muñoz created a series of provocative snow globes I am still crazy about. Snow globes? Yes, snow globes. Follow the link and check check them out.

Anyhow, if you find yourself in New York and want to take an unconventional museum tour, buy a $2 Metro Card and cruise from station to station. The MTA's website makes plotting out such a tour easy.

Art is important, I'll go so far as to say that it's vital to the health of a society. Seeing the amount of time, money and attention the Metropolitan Transit Authority spends on public art should serve as an example to cities across the rest of the US. In a time of contracting economies and squeezed budgets, Art's still important. Maybe it's even more important now than ever.


  1. Loving the series of NYC posts. In November I am off to NYC with two friends, one Dutch and one Norwegian, neither have been to NYC. Its great to have these ideas for exploring and discovering the city without having to board a double decker bus. Any great food experiences worth mentioning?

  2. Thanks Elizabeth. Needless to say, you will have a blast in NYC, it's impossible not to. I took one of my nieces on her first visit to New York a couple of years ago and it's great fun to accompany a first-timer. You get to experience that initial thrill all over again through them.

    There are food opportunities galore, and one of my favorite dinner time activities is to pick a neighborhood, any neighborhood, and stroll around scanning menus until one catches your eye. My friend Janine took me to a hole in the wall on Third Avenue in Murray Hill this last time. The name escapes me, but I have the receipt from dinner if you want the name of the place. Anyhow, we had the best pizza I've ever had outside of Napoli that night. It was the perfect, family-run, Italian restaurant. No pretense, just great food.

    Another great food experience is in the Chelsea Market on 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th street: http://chelseamarket.com/. There are food stalls in the concourse that verge on the pornographic. The High Line runs through the rear of the building so you can walk off lunch after you've eaten.

    Have fun!

  3. OK, now you had to know I was going to go ape over those crows, right? That is suberb. Just incredible. They look perfect sitting amongst the iron bars. I am way overdue for a NYC trip so this is just one more kick in the butt to get moving on it.

  4. You bet I knew you would. It's the inclusion ofthe crows that made me sure you'd go bonkers. Please go up there. This installation is a riot because the birds are positioned the way live birds distribute themselves. There are small goups of them everywhere and they appear to be waiting for a train. Brilliant!


Talk to me!